It’s not generally advisable to make an enemy out of the entire American intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, and it’s even less advisable if you might have committed treason or otherwise conspired with a hostile foreign power at any point in your life.
Then again, you could argue that Trump, already in over his head when he assumed the presidency, had little choice but to try and use the powers of his office to purge the FBI and the DoJ of anybody who might be in a position to figure out what exactly happened in the lead up to the election and during the transition.
The problem for Trump is twofold. First, getting rid of the people in the law enforcement and intelligence communities that might be inclined to investigate him for possible crimes was itself a crime, which means that in obscuring possible collusion, he may have committed obstruction. Second, America is still a democracy, which means all of these enemies Trump has made are free to write books, open Twitter accounts, speak in public and give interviews on national television.
And so, we get stunning accounts from folks like former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, whose 60 Minutes interview we previewed here last Thursday.
In the clips released on Valentine’s Day, McCabe explained why he opened an obstruction and counterintelligence investigation into Trump and he also confirmed stories about Rod Rosenstein suggesting that he (Rosenstein) wear a wire to record the Trump in the Oval Office.
Although Rosenstein reiterated the notion that accounts of his offer to record the president aren’t accurate (he said the same thing when The New York Times first detailed the secret meetings back in September), two FBI attorneys apparently backed up McCabe’s account during private testimony to Congress last year.
Well, the full 60 Minutes interview with McCabe (which aired Sunday) is just as damning as the teaser segments released last Thursday suggested it would be.
Here is McCabe telling Scott Pelley how Trump refused to accept the intelligence community’s assessment of North Korea’s ballistic missile program because Putin had given him a different account.
That is, to quote Trump, “not good, not good.”
And here is the moment when McCabe assured Pelley that very much contrary to Rosenstein’s (and the DoJ’s) attempts at spin, Rod was “absolutely” not joking about recording Trump.
This is a tough one for the “deep state” conspiracy theory crowd for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t generally think “nationally televised interviews with 60 Minutes” when you think “deep state conspiracies”. Second, McCabe seemingly was not prepared to go along with Rosenstein’s wire idea even though he clearly supported it on a personal level. That means that either McCabe is trying to throw Rod under the bus or else he was concerned about preserving the rule of law even when he believed that the man in the Oval Office was intent on running roughshod over it and even as the FBI was conducting an investigation.
Asked whether he expected Trump would move to strip him of his pension, McCabe sighed and said “I guess I should have”.
That was a particularly offensive episode of Trump’s presidential reality show and it came courtesy of Jeff Sessions.
Relive the McCabe firing
On a lighter note, McCabe also described a job interview he had with Trump and it is all kinds of hilarious. What’s great about the clip below is that despite the gravity of this interview (the whole point of which is to lend credence to the notion that the man in the Oval Office might well be a serious threat to national security) you can tell that McCabe really wants to laugh because as serious as this situation was most assuredly was (and still is), Trump’s buffoonery is objectively funny no matter how much you despise him.
As you might have heard, Lindsey Graham, in his infinite wisdom, has decided it’s a good idea to try and haul in McCabe and Rosenstein for questioning.
Here’s what Graham told Face The Nation on Sunday (this is from the transcript):
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: While he’s publicly denied it, but, the whole point of Congress existing is to provide oversight of the executive branch. So through good reporting by 60 MINUTES, there’s an allegation by the acting FBI director at the time that the deputy attorney general was basically trying to do an administrative coup, take the President down through the 25th Amendment process. The deputy attorney general denies it. So I promise your viewers the following; that we will have a hearing about who’s telling the truth, what actually happened. Mister McCabe, you remember, was dismissed from the FBI for leaking information to the press. So you got to remember the source here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There has been some parsing though of whether these were extended discussions versus conversations about the 25th Amendment.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah. Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know whether those conversations have taken place?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: No, but I think everybody in the country needs to know if it happened. It’s stunning to me that one of the chief law enforcement officers of the land, the acting head of the FBI, would go on national television and say, oh, by the way, I remember a conversation with the deputy attorney general about trying to find if we could replace the President under the 25th Amendment. We’re a democracy. People enforce the law, can’t take it into their own hands. And was this an attempted bureaucratic coup? I don’t know. I don’t know who’s telling the truth. I know Rosenstein has vehemently denied it but we are going to get to the bottom of it. I do know there was a lot of monkey business about FISA warrants being issued against Carter Page, about dossiers coming from Russia that were unverified. Mister Mueller is going to look at the Trump campaign as he should to see if they violated any laws during the 2016 election. And I’m going to do everything I can to get to the bottom of the Department of Justice FBI behavior toward President Trump and his campaign.
That, frankly, is a terrible idea. And not because America doesn’t deserve to know what happened in the weeks following the firing of James Comey. But rather because it is abundantly clear in this case that the FBI and the DoJ believed the President of the United States was a threat and that he might be compromised by the Kremlin, which means if you do in fact haul in McCabe and Rosenstein for questioning under oath, what you’re going to get is a reiteration of that assessment, which will only make things worse for Trump.
If, on the other hand, Rosenstein were to persist in the idea that he was “joking” about taping Trump, that’s foreboding because it raises questions about why he would continue to lie about it even as he’s on his way out the door (read: it would suggest Rod is playing possum so Mueller can continue to gather evidence, something more than a few people have suggested since Trump almost fired him in September).
For the White House’s sake, one hope Graham understands all of that.
In any case, it’s just another day in Trump’s America, I suppose.
All you can do is laugh.