If my headline doesn’t make much sense, well, it’s a pretty accurate summary of Washington Post blogger Max Boot’s column yesterday. When FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired, Boot was one of the people who came out swinging.
The firing of Andrew McCabe is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to undermine the FBI, obstruct justice, and pervert the rule of law. Trump is intent on punishing and intimidating all of the dedicated law enforcement personnel who stand in his way.
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) March 17, 2018
In short, there was nothing that could possibly justify the firing of Andrew McCabe. It was a Trumpian plot. So when the DOJ Inspector General released his damning report on McCabe which concluded he had lied to James Comey, to FBI investigators while under oath, to the IG, and had even lied about his lies to FBI investigators when changing his story, suddenly Max Boot had some backtracking to do.
The recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility was that McCabe should be canned for his repeated and intentional “lack of candor.” And that’s what happened. But having already blasted this as an attempt to “undermine the FBI” etc., Max Boot couldn’t bring himself to admit he got this one wrong. Instead, he wrote a blog post yesterday titled “Sure, McCabe and Comey made mistakes. But that’s not why they were fired.”
If taken in isolation, as Trump defenders would like, this would seem a damning case, even though McCabe has denied any intent to mislead. But taken in isolation, there was also a damning case against Comey, as outlined in a letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and released by the White House when the FBI director was fired last May…
When Sessions finally fired McCabe, as recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Trump exulted that this was “A great day for Democracy.” On Friday, after the release of the IG report, Trump was hyperventilating again: “DOJ just issued the McCabe report — which is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey — McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”
So this is what Trump apologists want us to believe: that McCabe was fired completely on the merits and that the demands of the president to get rid of him had nothing to do with it. And if you believe that, you’re probably still convinced that the infamous meeting between the Trump campaign high command and a Russian lawyer was really about “adoptions.” Sure, Comey and McCabe made serious mistakes — but those mistakes were a pretext for Trump’s vendetta against the investigators who are hot on his trail.
I think the problem here is that Boot insists on treating everything as a subset of the one story that he is focused on: blasting President Trump. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that two things could be independently true here. First, Trump really did go after McCabe and celebrate his firing. Second, McCabe is a self-serving liar who deserved to be fired.
Boot’s original Twitter take on this, like McCabe’s take, suggested point one was the real cause of everything, but the IG report proves that, independently, McCabe is a liar who lied to the FBI multiple times. In fact, it’s a bit odd that Boot is using the comparison to Comey to make his case since Comey is one of the people McCabe lied to about the leak. James Comey’s own recollection is literally one of the reasons McCabe was fired.
Now, is it possible that Sessions could have chosen to go easy on McCabe and let him ride out his last couple days and retire with a full pension? Maybe so. Is it possible Trump’s anger at McCabe encouraged Sessions to take a harder line than he absolutely had to take here? Again, maybe so. But the bottom line is that McCabe’s repeated lack of candor under oath really did rise to the level of firing. The FBI routinely puts people in jail for this same violation. Why should McCabe get a pass?
More significantly, there is no scenario here where McCabe’s integrity comes out of this unscathed whether or not he is fired by Sessions. McCabe’s integrity is shot, not because he lost his pension but because the IG documented multiple instances of him lying under oath. Max Boot’s argument is premised on the very silly idea that, if only McCabe hadn’t been fired he would still be a devastating witness against Trump. How does that work exactly? Hey, it’s true he lied under oath and to his own boss at the FBI, but did you know he still has a pension? I’m not convinced that’s a slam dunk witness.
Simply put, just because Trump wanted McCabe fired doesn’t automatically prove he didn’t genuinely deserve it. McCabe’s credibility problems are of his own making.