A Strange Kind of Deep State Coup

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appeared on the TODAY show Tuesday morning and told host Savannah Guthrie that he informed the Gang of Eight after he authorized a counterintelligence investigation of the president of the United States in May 2017. The Gang of Eight is a select group of senior congressional leaders that includes the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, and the chairs and ranking minority members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees. This is important for two reasons.

The first is that it means that Republican Party leaders Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Sen. Richard Burr, and Rep. Mike Conaway have known that the president was being investigated for his potential threat to national security for nearly two years. It’s unclear what then-House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes may have known since he was forcibly but temporarily recused from oversight of the Russia investigation in May 2017.

According to McCabe, no member of the Gang of Eight raised any objections at the time: “not on legal grounds, constitutional grounds or based on the facts.”

President Trump had just fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, and then admitted on national television that he had done it because he didn’t like being investigated over his ties to Russia. He had just had a meeting in the Oval Office with Russia’s ambassador and foreign minister where he had informed them that he’d fired Comey and thereby lifted the pressure off himself. In that meeting, he had also shared sensitive intelligence about Syria that had been provided on a confidential basis by Israel. It must have been nearly impossible for anyone to object to the FBI looking into what may have been behind the president’s bizarre behavior.

One thing this revelation helps explain is why Republican congressional leaders have never given the president any cover to fire Robert Mueller. It’s true that they have stubbornly refused calls to formally protect Mueller, but they’ve also made it clear in public and in private that there would be hell to pay if Trump tried to terminate him or his investigation. On the Senate side, they have pursued their own investigation in a way that has been less than rigorous but still more dogged than it had to be. For the most part, the Democrats have not cried foul.

I took these cues to mean that there were real concerns about Trump’s relationship with Russia among the Republican leadership in Congress, and now I know why. They knew that the intelligence community was highly suspicious and was investigating. They obviously did not let on to the public or their base, and on the House side the investigation was a complete sham, especially once Devin Nunes ended his recusal and resumed control. Even so, the investigation has persisted because Republican leaders have insisted that it continue.

This is a strange kind of Deep State coup.

Of course, McCabe also revealed that there were conversations in May 2017 among senior FBI and Department of Justice officials about the potential for using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and even a conversation about a potential sting operation using surreptitious recordings of the president. Neither of those ideas ever got off the ground, but they show how Trump’s actions were perceived at the time. Senator Lindsey Graham was not a member of the Gang of Eight then and he is not a member now. He does have the gavel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, and he’s planning on making a big issue out of McCabe’s revelations.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has vowed to launch an investigation into whether top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI had plotted an “administrative coup” to drive President Trump out of office…

…Graham questioned whether McCabe’s admission amounted to “an attempted bureaucratic coup,” saying the country needed the truth.

“I’m going to tell the country about McCabe and the people at the Department of Justice and how they behaved,” Graham said. “Did they take the law in their own hands? Did they abuse the FISA warrant process because they had a political agenda? Did their hatred of Trump go so far that they abandoned their role of being law enforcement agents and become advocates for a political cause? We’re going to get to the bottom of that.”

It’s important that none of the Gang of Eight members objected when informed that the president was being investigated as a possible national security threat. They did not question the FBI’s decision or suggest that they were pursuing a political agenda based on hatred. That’s why Mitch McConnell should not allow Sen. Graham to pursue this line of inquiry. Aside from being disingenuous and another baseless attack on the integrity of our institutions, it would be a change of course. Up to now, McConnell has quietly assented to the investigation of the president because he knew it was warranted. The Senate has by and large acted accordingly. If that is no longer going to be the case, it will be a real shame.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com