McCabe Just The Latest Victim Of Trump’s Authoritarian, Political Purges

The timing of Jeff Sessions’ firing of Andrew McCabe late on Friday night and just two days before his retirement smacks of political motivations. But it is just another example of the Trump administration politicizing the civil service.

The Inspector General’s (IG) report that recommended McCabe’s firing has yet to be made public and is not scheduled to be released until later in the spring. That report is a broad investigation into how the FBI handled the Clinton email server case. And it is quite possible that McCabe was not totally forthcoming with that investigation as has been alleged. It is also probable that James Comey will also come under intense criticism in that report because he clearly did violate DOJ rules and guidelines with both his July and October actions in regard to the Clinton investigation.

But the fact that McCabe’s actions were segregated from the IG’s report as well as the fact he was given minimal time to prepare for his hearing with Sessions to argue his side of the story indicates that at least the excessive speed at which the process moved was largely driven by political considerations. In terms of the need to protect the country at large from whatever breaches in protocol or law that McCabe has engaged in, there would be no harm in letting him retire on Sunday as planned and to wait for the entire IG report to come out.

According to McCabe’s lawyer, “Mr. McCabe and his counsel were given limited access to a draft of the OIG report late last month, did not see the final report and the evidence on which it is based until a week ago, and were receiving relevant exculpatory evidence as recently as two days ago”. As many have pointed out, John Woo, the author of the Bush administration’s infamous torture memos, was given six months to prepare his defense in front of the Attorney General. McCabe was given less than six days.

Of course, the backdrop of all this has been the incessant rantings from David Dennison (aka Donald Trump) that McCabe is part of a broad conspiracy against the President and needs to be fired. Those rantings are part of a general attempt at intimidation and obstruction of justice against those who are potential witnesses against Trump in the Russia investigation and now directly focused on the Mueller investigation. In fact, with McCabe’s firing, Dennison (aka Trump) has fired two critical witnesses to his obstruction of justice, Comey and McCabe. And, as Benjamin Wittes notes, “It is possible, after all, to politicize law enforcement by repeatedly propagating the lie that the law enforcement apparatus is already politicized.” And that is exactly what Dennison (aka Trump) is doing and thereby creating the excuse to taint or eliminate every one who threatens him, even Mueller eventually.

In fact, Bill Kristol was on Last Word last night and theorized that Trump gave Sessions an ultimatum, either fire McCabe or get fired himself. Confronted with that horrific choice, Sessions, knowing that his firing would mean the end of the Mueller investigation, chose to essentially “sacrifice” McCabe in order save Mueller. While that is certainly just speculation at this point, it is a conceivable theory, especially considering Dennison’s (aka Trump’s) attacks on Mueller this weekend. Now McCabe may end up with the last word in this case. Dennisons’s (aka Trump’s) demands that he be fired and the short-circuiting of the full investigative and administrative process creates a strong case for McCabe to sue for wrongful termination in order to receive his full pension.

The politicization of the civil service and law enforcement by Dennison (aka Trump) began all the way back in the 2016 campaign. And the firings of what were believed to be “political opponents” in bureaucracy began from the very start of this administration. On Thursday, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees accused the Trump administration of coordinating with outside conservative groups to basically “purge” the State Department of civil servants they believed were political opponents.

One target was a career civil servant and Iran expert, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, whose tenure at the Policy Planning Staff was cut short after the administration took over, apparently for clearly political reasons. One White House official falsely claimed that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran and was visibly distressed by Hillary Clinton’s loss, despite the fact that she joined the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. Conservative groups accused her of promoting the Iran nuclear deal under Obama and implied she was almost an Iranian agent, saying she had “burrowed” her way into the State Department. They demanded she be fired, writing to the administration “I think a cleaning is in order here…I hear Tillerson actually been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind.”

Nowrouzzadeh was not the only one apparently targeted. From what the Democrats on the committees have uncovered, it appears that a list was exchanged between the National Security Council and the State Department that described a certain career civil servant as a “turncoat” and another as a “leaker and troublemaker”.

The politicization of the non-partisan civil service under Dennison (aka Trump) is just the culmination of decades of attacks by the Republican party on the idea of government at all. It is also the result of a party that has convinced itself that it is continually under existential threat. And, in Dennison (aka Trump), we actually have a President whose livelihood and reputation, what little of it is left, is actually under existential threat from the Mueller investigation and elsewhere and whose authoritarian tendencies are only enhanced by his need to have enemies he can “conquer”.

As Dennison (aka Trump) becomes more and more unhinged and, in a sense, “liberated”, those authoritarian tendencies will only get stronger. Already he and his lawyers are calling for Mueller’s investigation to be shut down by Rod Rosenstein. And as each day passes, Mueller’s investigation will become more and more threatened and more and more non-partisan civil servants will be targeted for politically motivated attacks.

Originally published at on March 18, 2018.



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