A short while ago there was a #Resistance boomlet surrounding FBI Director Christopher Wray. It is was pretty much a formulaic story that we’ve seen over and over and over for the past year. [Fill in your favorite #Resistance hero] is told to do something by [Fill in your favorite Trump administration villain] and [Favorite #Resistance hero] refuses to carry out a lawful directive because their principles prevent them from being loyal and responsive to their boss. This is not new. During the Bush administration there were regular stories about generals and intelligence officers and other executive branch officials “pushing back” on orders they were given by Bushitler and his henchmen. This is the basic story:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.
Let’s look at a Washington Post story from a couple of days ago titled FBI director, under pressure to make changes, is replacing Comey aides.
The moves come as Wray, who became the FBI director in August, has faced pressure from Sessions to make personnel changes. Wray has resisted calls to replace the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of Trump’s.
Sessions and other members of the Trump administration have been saying for weeks that Wray should demote or reassign senior officials and aides to Comey, whom Trump fired in May. Comey’s firing led to the appointment of a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining possible ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, and whether the president or others at the White House have obstructed justice.
Notice what is missing from this? Any mention of Wray threatening to resign. And, in fact, McCabe has submitted hie retirement request and will leave the FBI in early March. Personally, I find it very difficult to believe Wray didn’t prevail on McCabe to leave and I find it equally hard to believe that he was willing to walk in order to preserve a deputy director who was a) deeply compromised, b) not trusted by either Congress or the White House and c) who was the subject of a Hatch Act investigation and a sexual discrimination complaint. If you’re going to threaten to walk you do it over something important, not over the future of a guy you’re not going to keep anyway.
When you look at the top ranks of the FBI, there has been a total purge. Comey’s chief of staff, a guy named Jim Rybicki, has been forced out of the FBI. Wray has brought in “Zachary J. Harmon, a colleague from the law firm where Wray was a partner before joining the bureau. Harmon is a former federal prosecutor who heads the anti-corruption practice at King & Spalding.”
Comey’s general counsel, James Baker, has been forced out of his job and is playing Minesweeper in some basement office. Jeff Sessions has installed Dana Boente in that position. Boente’s name should be familiar. I say Sessions has installed Boente because Boente has no personal or professional connection to Wray. On the other hand, he’s the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia who was appointed by Trump as acting attorney general after security escorted the insufferable Sally Yates out of the building. Boetne ordered Trump’s executive order to be defended by Justice. He was then appointed acting assistant attorney general for the National Security Division.
My bet is that in the next three to four months you see other senior positions change. I can’t imagine how the head of counterintelligence, Bill Priestap, survives the Strzok/Page debacle. He was either involved or too stupid to see what was happening in his own backyard. Either way, he should go.
Bottom line: these stories are just chum in the water for the #Resistance. Professionals don’t refuse to do things that are legal and proper for them to do. The removal of McCabe was too soon after the pressure on Wray to remove him for there to be no connection. And the the ongoing purge indicates he has heeded Sessions’s suggestion.