McCabe: Patriot, or leader of a coup?
Andrew McCabe is “back with a vengeance,” said Alex Ward in Vox.com. The former FBI acting director, whom President Trump made a central player in his imagined “Deep State” conspiracy against him, returned to the spotlight this week with a tell-all memoir and accompanying media blitz. The book is full of bombshells that have sparked “a firestorm in Washington.” McCabe explains why he initiated an FBI investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice after the president fired FBI Director James Comey: The newly elected president’s attempts to shut down the fledgling Russia investigation were so blatant, McCabe said, that top officials feared Trump might be compromised by Russia and pose “a national security threat” to the U.S. So deep was that concern, McCabe admits, that he, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and other top Justice Department officials even discussed whether they could recruit Vice President Mike Pence and eight Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office on the grounds that he was unfit.
Their concern was legitimate, said former FBI counterintelligence official Frank Figliuzzi in NBCNews.com. McCabe’s most chilling claim might be that Trump scoffed when his U.S. intelligence briefers told him North Korea had developed an intercontinental missile capable of reaching the U.S. Trump told the briefers that Russia’s Vladimir Putin had assured him North Korea didn’t possess such technology, and “I believe Putin.” McCabe is “sounding an alarm” about the grave threat our own president poses to our national security, “and we need to listen.”
McCabe’s credibility is tainted, said Willis Krumholz in TheFederalist.com, because he was fired from the FBI for lying about authorizing press leaks. Nonetheless, he just admitted that he and Rosenstein led a cabal that really did try “to launch a coup against the constitutionally elected president of the United States.” When his effort to organize a mutiny of Cabinet officials came to nothing, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to launch a bogus investigation and find some legal pretext for ousting Trump. The president was right about the Deep State all along, said Michael Goodwin in the New York Post. When the full story is told, it could be “the greatest scandal in the history of America.”
The hysterical right-wing claims of an attempted “coup” are “unfounded,” said Philip Bump in The Washington Post. McCabe and Rosenstein discussed—but did not act on—the possibility that Trump’s Cabinet would trigger the 25th Amendment, which sets out procedures to follow when a president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The removal of a president by constitutional means “is, by definition, not a coup.” What clearly happened, said Paul Waldman, also in the Post, is that veteran public servants like Rosenstein, most of them lifelong Republicans, were so alarmed by Trump’s slavish affinity for our main geopolitical foe that they briefly considered using “extraordinary measures to safeguard the U.S. government.” This is, after all, their job.
It’s “hard to fault” McCabe, Rosenstein, et al. for fearing “a charismatic demagogue like Trump,” said Matt Lewis in TheDailyBeast.com. But Americans who care about liberty, democracy, and the rule of law also have good reason to fear intelligence and law enforcement agencies “who can wiretap their enemies and jail you for lying to them.” That’s true even when—and perhaps especially when—these powerful officials believe that their motives are pure, and that “the ends justify the means.”