We just found out Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe received treatment from President Trump that has become oh-so-familiar to leading law enforcement officials: They are asked to do or respond to something with clear political and personal overtones, and are left uncomfortable about the whole thing.
The list of those who have similar stories is long, and it’s getting significantly longer this month. It includes James B. Comey, Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and Jeff Sessions. And before the news about McCabe this week, there was yet another FBI director — the current one, Christopher A. Wray — who resisted Trump’s efforts to get him to push out McCabe. So just to sum up, that’s now all three of Trump’s FBI directors (including an acting one), along with both of his attorneys general (including one acting one). Noticing a pattern?
.. Trump asked McCabe about whom he voted for in the 2016 election and pressed him on his wife’s Democratic campaign for Virginia state legislature right after Trump dismissed Comey:
The Oval Office meeting happened shortly after Trump fired Comey following failed efforts by the president to get the FBI director to back off from the Russia probe. Before the May 9 dismissal, Trump had also sought a loyalty oath from Comey and was annoyed that the FBI director would not state publicly at the time that Trump was not personally under investigation.
If there was one moment in Trump’s presidency in which his apparent efforts to affect the Russia investigation came to the fore, the firing of Comey was it. The White House quickly struggled to explain the firing, giving conflicting signals. And then Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News that he fired Comey with the Russia probe on his mind.
.. It was at this juncture that Trump decided to invite McCabe, the man in line to serve as Comey’s temporary replacement, to the Oval Office and decided to do almost precisely what Comey said Trump did to him: Hint at the idea that an FBI director should be loyal to the president. The parallels are striking.
.. “I don’t talk about the things we were examining and investigating during that time I was U.S. attorney, including on the day that I left that job,” Bharara told me, in a separate interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “But there would be people who would know what we were looking at, including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, because we provided summaries of significant and sensitive cases that we were working. And that’s all I’ll say.”.. he thinks Trump enabled an environment of people busting through norms and boundaries, and looking out for themselves above all. He’s also happy to talk about the reaction he had to the meeting and two phone calls he had with the then-president-elect last fall and winter... “This is a person who is a transactional player in the world—that’s how he did what he did in his business, and that’s how he thinks, I think, the justice system is supposed to work. And why not have people on your side, because like the Godfather says, the Godfather may come to you for a favor,”.. Deeply political people, whether you’re talking about a governor of a state or a chief of staff to a president, think that everyone acts like they do.”.. in his new office in Vanderbilt Hall at NYU School of Law, where the student lounge is named after presidential in-laws Seryl and Charles Kushner—whose big donations to the school coincided with their son Jared Kushner’s time getting a JD/MBA there.
In his speech, Trump encouraged police brutality and said he was “the big, big believer and admirer of the people in law enforcement, O.K.?” He said that he’s protecting the backs of law enforcement “100 percent.” Except for Sessions, Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and Robert Mueller.
.. And in his paranoid, aggrieved isolation, he’s even thinking about nixing Steve Bannon, nemesis of the Mooch, and mulling firing the one who could get him fired, Mueller, and pardoning himself for possible charges.
.. Trump learned his technique of publicly criticizing and freely firing from George Steinbrenner, one of the ruthless, towering characters he modeled himself on when he started hanging out at Yankee Stadium in the ’70s.
.. Trump had always resented Priebus for advising him to get out of the race after the Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape story broke — known as Priebus’s “scarlet A.H.,” according to The Washington Post — and for not understanding that Trump is not a mere Republican; he’s the head of his own “beautiful,” us-against-them movement, “the likes of which the world has never seen.”
.. As The Post reports, Trump’s delighted demeaning of Priebus included this incident: “At one point, during a meeting in the Oval Office, a fly began buzzing overhead, distracting the president. As the fly continued to circle, Trump summoned his chief of staff and tasked him with killing the insect.”
.. After torturing Reince for months, Trump happily gave him the final humiliating shove. As the tweets hit the White House cellphones, Priebus’s colleagues Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino jumped out of the Suburban they were sharing with Priebus, leaving the jobless man in a driving rain on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, the weakest link tossed off the sled for the press wolves.
.. You’re a killer and a king or a loser, as Fred Trump liked to say. And anyone who doesn’t understand that Trump is more important than the G.O.P. or the institution of the presidency is, in his mind, a loser. Anyone who doesn’t get that the loyalty should be for him personally, rather than the country, is, to Trump, a loser.
.. With Priebus, The Post reported, the president obsessed on impotence. “The word was ‘weak’ – ‘weak,’ ‘weak,’ ‘weak,’ ‘Can’t get it done,’” an official told the paper.
.. But after all his bragging about being a great negotiator and closer, it is President Trump who can’t get it done. He couldn’t even close the deal on a pathetic, bare-bones health care bill, ineffectually bullying Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, and failing to win over John McCain, who gleefully had his revenge for Trump’s mockery of him as being a loser because he was captured in war.
.. Trump can’t get it done for his pal, Putin, either. In fact, the biggest legislative accomplishment before Congress leaves for August will have been passing new sanctions on Russia because lawmakers don’t trust their own president. Talk about weak.
.. Congressional Republicans are losing their fear of Trump, making ever more snarky comments about him. North Korea is shooting off missiles and the White House is flustered. The generals are resisting Trump’s tweet edicts. The mortified leader of the Boy Scouts had to apologize for the president’s suggestive and partisan speech.
And what could be weaker than that?
That has legal experts closely examining the dry executive order to figure out who might be next up to bat, or, as Democratic lawyers and consultants view it, who might serve as Trump’s next sacrificial lamb.
.. “We know Rachel Brand is the next victim,”
.. “For those of us who have high confidence in Rachel — the more confidence you have in someone in this role, the less long you think they’ll last,”
.. Typically, the solicitor general would be next in line after the associate attorney general, followed by the list of five assistant U.S. attorneys, the order of which would be determined by the attorney general. But none of those individuals have been confirmed by the Senate, and they would be unable to serve as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.
.. Because of that, the executive order comes into play — one that puts next in line after Brand the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente.
- .. Boente, who was briefly thrust into the no. 2 spot at the Justice Department after Yates was fired, was also tasked with phoning Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to deliver the unexpected news that he was fired. At the time, Boente also vowed to defend Trump’s travel ban in the future.
- .. Eastern District of North Carolina, John Stuart Bruce; and the U.S. attorney for the
- Northern District of Texas, John Parker.
.. Trump’s desire to rid himself of Mueller, at potentially any cost
.. The president, who friends said does not enjoy living in Washington and is strained by the demanding hours of the job, is motivated to carry on because he “doesn’t want to go down in history as a guy who tried and failed,” said the adviser. “He doesn’t want to be the second president in history to resign.”