Trump fires McCabe, launches tirade vs. Mueller to stop investigation
There is almost universal belief now that the reasons behind Trump's firing of McCabe are twofold: First to destroy McCabe's credibility as a witness in an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that grows closer by the day to impugning the president, and second to discredit the investigation itself. | Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON—Republican President Donald Trump took to twitter the weekend of March 16-18 to lash out at former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s conducting an independent investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, collusion with foreign actors by the Trump campaign and widespread financial crimes by Trump associates.

And that’s prompted critics from both parties, plus McCabe, to say what Trump’s really doing is trying to quash the probe – a demand Trump’s lawyer made in the midst of the chaos – and create a crisis by trashing U.S. criminal justice agencies.

The critics, including Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are telling Trump to back off and let the probe run its course, or risk further damage to the U.S. government and the country.

Meanwhile, McCabe retorted he took personal notes of his talks with Trump, wrote a memo about them immediately afterwards – and has given it to Mueller.

McCabe and Mueller became nasty personal targets of Trump’s tweets during the latest brouhaha. Though Trump has blasted McCabe for months, it was the first time he has gone after Mueller by name.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!” Trump tweeted. Mueller, a Republican far longer than Trump, has approximately 40 investigators on his team. McCabe is also a longtime registered Republican.

“Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?” Trump tweeted about McCabe and his boss, former FBI Director Comey, whom Trump fired earlier. Both Comey and McCabe have given their memos to Mueller.

The latest saga started on the evening of March 16, when Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, sacked McCabe, 26 hours before McCabe was scheduled to retire. The Justice Department’s inspector general leveled some criticism at McCabe for allegedly unauthorized talks with reporters, which Sessions seized on to fire him. McCabe said Justice Department rules let him talk to the press.

The firing jeopardizes the pension McCabe, a 21-year career FBI person, would receive.

Over the weekend, the president took to twitter for his blasts. He drew twitter support from committed Trumpites – and from Julian Assange, the leaker of the Clinton campaign and Democratic memos in 2016 whose action accelerated the FBI’s collusion investigation that year.

All this came after reports Mueller has expanded his investigation into Trump’s dealings with the Russians covering not just the campaign but the Trump Organization’s business practices, including extensive loans from Russian organized crime interests for many of his building projects.

It also came after Mueller’s indictments of four former top Trump aides, plus three guilty pleas. At least one former Trump aide agreed to cooperate with Mueller.

But the critics are worried about more than just the tweets.

McCabe said looking at the tweets and constant barrage of criticism from Trump “in isolation completely misses the big picture. The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.”

“Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity,” McCain tweeted. “It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.”

“If he (Trump) tried to do that” – fire Mueller – “that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation,” Graham, a former member of the military’s Judge Advocate Corps of attorneys, told TV news shows.

“I don’t know what the designs are on Mueller, but it seems to be building toward that, and I just hope it doesn’t go there…We can’t in Congress accept that,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told CNN. “I’m just puzzled by why the White House is going so hard at this, other than that they’re very afraid of what might come out.”

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., doesn’t want Trump to fire Mueller. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said: “As the Speaker has always said, Mr .Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.”

Trump, in – of course – another tweet, again called the Mueller investigation “a witch hunt.” He tweeted the probe never should have started and denied there was any collusion.

U.S. intelligence agencies, including the FBI, have concluded the Russians vigorously tried to disrupt the 2016 election, by tweets, bots, fake rallies, other shady tactics and by leaking material smearing his Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton to Assange and Wikileaks.

“The firing of Andy McCabe is part of a pattern to root out top law enforcement officials. Special Counsel Mueller must not become part of that pattern. The rule of law and health of our democracy is at stake,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted.

One constituent promptly tweeted back: “So what are you going to do about it?”

Feinstein did not answer that tweet.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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