Several sources are being cited for a story this morning that President Donald Trump asked Andrew McCabe, then the acting Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation, who he had voted for in the presidential election. If true, it would be another highly inappropriate question for a president to ask an FBI official. Such questions undermine the apolitical status of our law enforcement officials. Indeed, for those concerned about
“Deep State” political bias, the last thing that we want is for officials to be actively questioned about their voting in elections — compromising the sanctity of the voting booth for all citizens. In the meantime, media outlets are also reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe. While the White House denies that Wray threatened to resign, such an effort would show a remarkably long learning curve for this Administration. Update: President Trump says that he does not recall asking McCabe who he voted for in the presidential election.
The questioning of McCabe and the push to fire McCabe would not be a crime but it would raise serious questions about the level of control and discipline in the White House after a year of flailing around from controversy to controversy. There would not likely be a Russian investigation if Trump had not fired Comey. Indeed, I was one of those who questioned the need for a Special Counsel until Trump took this step (and made comments that undermined his own decision). That is why I supported the establishment of the Special Counsel investigation.
If McCabe was asked to reveal who he voted for, he should have raised the issue with the Attorney General. Moreover, it is the duty of the FBI Director and/or the Attorney General to then raise the matter with the White House in the strongest terms as an inappropriate inquiry. This would be a very serious transgression on long-standing traditions in this country as well as the protections afforded to civil servants,
Now, it is being reported that Jeff Sessions sought to fire the second in command (who is scheduled to retire in March). What concerns me is whether there was anyone in the room who explained how unlikely it would be for Wray to take such an action and how damaging such a request would be for the White House. The reports indicate that the White House Counsel was a party to this ill-conceived effort, but then allegedly told Sessions to back off when Wray strongly objected to the effort. I am still hoping that the White House will deny the entirety of the story, but this is an unsettling allegations after so many missteps by this Administration.
As for the alleged questioning of McCabe, it would be a gratuitous as it is damaging for the White House. The damage is more political than legal however. Firing McCabe would not have any material impact on the Russian investigation and it is clear that Trump was responding to his view of a Deep State opposition to his Administration. I supported the congressional investigations into some of these controversies surrounding the FBI but this would be another ham-handed way of addressing these allegations.
What do you think?