“I don’t care. I believe Putin.” Those six words could be the focus of serious congressional oversight in the coming weeks. Former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe stated that President Donald Trump refused to accept intelligence on North Korea’s missile program and instead that he would rely on what Putin told him. It is a shocking claim, but what makes this claim so notable is that McCabe is suggesting that it was made before witnesses other than himself. That means that it should be capable to confirmation or refutation. However, this could have the makings of a massive privilege fight between the legislative and executive branches.
McCabe says that in the meeting discussing U.S. intelligence “The president launched into several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea. And, essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles. Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses. To which the president replied, ‘I don’t care. I believe Putin.'”
As alarming and outrageous as it would be, there is nothing unlawful about a president taking the work of a hostile dictator over that of our own intelligence professionals. A president is allowed to have bad judgment and not to listen to his own government. So what is the oversight claim? Congress cannot allege a crime on this allegation and oversight is not designed for probing the judgment of presidents. However, it would be so bizarre and dangerous that it would be worthy of congressional inquiry. That is likely where this will be heading.
Frankly, I have been highly critical of McCabe — as was the internal investigation into his conduct.