Sen. Lindsey Graham wants a hearing in the Judiciary Committee to make sure the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wasn’t “politically motivated.” But that’s exactly the accusation Democrats leveled in 2017 against the Judiciary Committee, of which Graham is a member, when it grilled McCabe for hours and its chairman called for McCabe’s dismissal because of interactions relating to the Hillary Clinton email investigation—interactions the FBI failed to explain then and now.
Sen. Jeff Flake, another Judiciary Committee member, has also questioned the firing despite the committee’s unanswered inquiries into McCabe’s conflicts of interest.
“When the president said it was a great day for democracy yesterday, I think it was a horrible day for democracy,” Flake told CNN. “To have firings like this happening at the top, from the president and the attorney general, does not speak well for what’s going on.”
“I’m just puzzled by why the White House is going so hard at this,” Flake said. “Other than they’re very afraid of what might come out. I don’t know how you can have any other conclusion.”
He’s puzzled? Congressional committees have been going hard at this for more than a year. In fact, intense inquiries were likely what drove McCabe to retire—but apparently only after his pension benefits would be guaranteed (about which, however, there is currently some uncertainty). He knew the heat was on and planned to get out after he got his government goodies.
You Guys Were On the Committee That Investigated This
Graham and Flake will no doubt remember letters their own committee chair sent to former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, demanding answers to questions about McCabe’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation and his failure to be recused from Clinton’s email investigation. Here are some excerpts from Chairman Chuck Grassley’s letter to Comey in 2016:
On October 23, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported a set of troubling facts about potential conflicts of interest in the criminal investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That news article noted that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee donated $467,500 to Dr. Jill McCabe’s state Senate campaign in 2015.
In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Virginia Democrat Party, ‘over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control,’ also donated $207,788 to her campaign. Dr. McCabe is married to Andrew McCabe who is currently deputy director of the FBI, and became part of the leadership that oversaw the Clinton email investigation in 2016. Gov. McAuliffe is long-time confidant of Bill and Hillary Clint on and served as President Clinton’s chief fundraiser in the 1990s.
It is well reported and known that Gov. McAuliffe and the Clintons have been close associates for decades and it begs the question why Mr. McCabe was allowed to be in a position to exert oversight upon the Clinton investigation knowing that his wife was provided over half a million dollars by entities tied so closely to Gov. McAuliffe and the Clintons.
The letter went on to explain why McCabe should not be overseeing the investigation. It then asked several questions the FBI failed to answer—a point a follow-up letter to Rosenstein made in 2017. In that letter, Grassley said, with Rosenstein now acting as deputy attorney general, it was imperative he “oversee the FBI’s handling of politically charged, high-profile and controversial investigations.”
In particular, the Judiciary Committee wanted “greater transparency regarding Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s role in those investigation and the appearance of political bias that his involvement creates.” This is ironic given Graham’s recent comment that he wants the Judiciary Committee to investigate Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to fire McCabe because of the need for transparency.
“I think we owe it to the average American to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, where Mr. Sessions, Attorney General Sessions, comes forward with whatever documentation he has about the firing, and give Mr. McCabe a chance to defend himself,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I believe, when it comes to this issue, we need as much transparency as possible to make sure it wasn’t politically motivated.”
Also, Maybe Read Headlines Sometime
Graham is concerned that firing McCabe for leaking might be politically motivated, but just last year, after leaks of President Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders, Sessions said he was going to be much tougher on leaking, emphasizing that anyone found guilty would be “held accountable.” “We are taking a stand,” Sessions said. “This culture of leaks must stop.”
At the time, Graham said these leaks were a “disservice to the president.” Sen. Bob Corker said he hoped the Trump administration would “fire every single person” who leaks sensitive information. It seems Sessions has done exactly what he said he was going to do.
With McCabe, however, this latest straw is only one in many—of which Graham has been fully aware. As reported by the Washington Post:
In early December, McCabe faced yet another controversy. The Post reported that one of his senior advisers, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, had exchanged numerous pro-Clinton and anti-Trump text messages with Peter Strzok, the top FBI agent on Mueller’s probe. The special counsel removed Strzok when he learned of their communications; Page had left the Mueller team two weeks earlier for what officials said were unrelated reasons. In one text, Strzok wrote that he thought Clinton should win ‘100,000,000-0.’
More problematic for McCabe is a text in which Page told Strzok: ‘I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.’
Republican lawmakers have seized on the text as evidence that Strzok, Page and possibly McCabe were involved in an effort to somehow ensure Trump would not win the election. But people familiar with the exchange said that the two were debating how overtly they should begin investigating Trump, and that one of the factors they considered was the likelihood he could win the presidency – which they deemed small.
Even that explanation presents a headache for McCabe, because it places a conversation in his office about how the expected election outcome should or should not affect the FBI’s investigative decisions.
This Guy Has Been Playing Congress for Long Enough
This, among other actions, is why Grassley called for McCabe’s ousting, which Graham did not contradict at the time. McCabe was under intense pressure by congressional committees to come clean, and he never did—a point Grassley made sternly in his letter to Rosenstein.
“As applied to Mr. McCabe’s role in the Clinton, McAuliffe, Trump associates investigation, and leak investigation, these rules demand that he and the FBI take steps to ensure that no appearance of a loss of impartiality undermines public confidence in the work of the Bureau,” he wrote in 2017. “The FBI has failed to show the Committee that it has taken those necessary steps.”
Yet, after more than a year-long inquiry with obfuscation and deflection from the FBI, Graham wants to investigate those who fired McCabe as if McCabe hasn’t had a chance to defend himself despite hours of questioning.
McCabe spent hours in Congress this past week, facing questions behind closed doors from members of three committees. Republicans said they were dissatisfied with his answers; Democrats called it a partisan hounding.
The pressure on McCabe has only intensified. He got an eight-hour grilling from the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday and returned to Congress on Thursday to face more than nine hours of questions from the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.
Instead of inquiring into why McCabe was fired or falsely accusing the Trump administration of undermining democracy, maybe Graham and Flake can swallow their Never-Trump pride and bring some transparency to the actions and motivations of those who seem intent on bringing down this president, beginning with Robert Mueller and ending with Barack Obama. They owe it to the “average American,” don’t you think?