As if on cue, the Democratic Party’s kept media launched into spinning last week’s firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as a craven political move by the Trump Administration, and an assault on the “independence” of the Bureau as a whole.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. In fact, McCabe was fired on the recommendation of someone appointed by Robert Mueller, based on the investigation of a lifelong Democrat appointed by Barack Obama.
Candice Will, named by Mueller to head the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility in 2004, runs an office of career lawyers whose job it is to ensure Bureau employees abide by FBI rules and regulations. Think of them as the office of internal experts about the FBI playbook. These people are the antithesis of partisans. Their track record is not usually one of recommending that people be fired, but rather disciplinary actions that are more on par, typically, with slaps on the wrist.
Lost amid the media-manufactured outrage is the fact that the OPR recommended Andrew McCabe be fired based on the initial findings of an investigation by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. President Trump recently expressed his dismay that Horowitz is an Obama appointee. Turns out, Horowitz’s internal investigation, and the OPR’s follow-up inquiry, are the whole basis for McCabe’s firing. Attorney General Jeff Sessions merely had to agree with the findings and recommendations of career FBI lawyers that McCabe should be terminated.
Knowing that, McCabe’s firing looks less like “assault on the FBI” and much more like an attempt by career personnel to protect and rehabilitate the Bureau’s image and integrity.
But if the “assault” metaphor is still appealing, maybe it’s better to say the OPR’s actions were an assault on the destructive behavior of senior FBI management in defense of the institution. You cannot have a deputy director displaying “lack of candor”—a polite way of saying “lying to investigators”—and not see that as damaging to the FBI’s upright culture. If the deputy director can lie to investigators with impunity about leaking to the press, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future of our nation’s top law-enforcement agency.