Why Shouldn't Trump Have Asked McCabe Who He Voted For?

Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI who is on the way out of the door in March, has become something of a cult figure. If you’ve been following the entire Russia probe, McCabe is at ground zero when all critical decisions are made–as well he would be because the deputy director’s job is running day-to-day operations. He oversaw the Clinton email investigation from January 2016 until he “recused” himself on November 1, 2016. He was on watch when the Trump dossier hit the fan. Those FISA warrants on Carter Page and Paul Manafort? The deputy director has to sign off on the request. The interview of Mike Flynn? McCabe was involved. From May 10 (Comey was fired on May 9) until August 3 (when Christopher Wray was confirmed as FBI director on August 2) he was acting FBI director. After Mueller was appointed special counsel it was McCabe who signed off on which FBI agents would be assigned to support Mueller.

The left elides over this witches cauldron of possible, and in some cases likely, misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance and sees McCabe as a poor, put-upon civil servant. He is the victim of an ogreish Trump who seeks to subvert the sanctity of the FBI, itself, by asking McCabe who he voted for in 2016.

Shortly after President Trump fired his FBI director in May, he summoned to the Oval Office the bureau’s acting director for a get-to-know-you meeting.

The two men exchanged pleasantries, but before long, Trump, according to several current and former U.S. officials, asked Andrew McCabe a pointed question: Whom did he vote for in the 2016 election?

McCabe said he didn’t vote, according to the officials, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about a sensitive matter.

Trump, the officials said, also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.

Let’s think about this for a moment. As theologians are so fond of saying about Scriptural exegesis, text without context is a pretext.

Comey was fired on May 9 and McCabe was interviewed to be FBI director on May 13. So this meeting took place May 10-12. It was obviously a pre-interview for the FBI position and it is not an off-the-wall question to a hardworking civil servant.

What goes unmentioned in the defense of McCabe is that at that meeting, McCabe was under investigation by the Department of Justice IG for violating the Hatch Act. While his wife was running as a Democratic candidate for a state senate seat in Virginia, McCabe allowed his official Bureau biography to be included in her materials when interviewing with the Virginia Democrat party, he appeared in her campaign literature wearing her campaign regalia, and he sent at least one email touting his wife’s candidacy from his official FBI email account. (And there was the sexual discrimination investigation against him also, but who cares? Right?)

McCabe may not have been an overly active partisan but he was a partisan and he was sufficiently partisan that he decided he would violate federal law to advance that partisan goal. We know from the Strzok/Page text messages that “Andy’s” office is where the lovebirds and McCabe and perhaps others discussed the ongoing political campaign though we don’t know what was said.

From the tenor of the conversation described in the article, it seems that Trump was very aware of all of this.

While the FBI director is supposed to act in a non-partisan manner (see Comey and the Clinton investigation for how that works), the FBI director is a political appointee. He is nominated by the president and serves at the pleasure of the president. There is nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical about the president wanting to make sure the people he nominates to carry out the policies of the administration are politically compatible. This position is the president’s to fill, within the context of the Senatorial advise-and-consent prerogative. The president has the right to pick his own team. He can ask whatever question he wishes. Given the background, why wouldn’t he ask McCabe who he voted for?