It's four days after the fact, but the firing of Andrew McCabe is still galling (and alas far-too normal), so the timespan doesn't matter. To be clear, no one in the public yet knows with 100% certainty the exact reasons given in the official report for the firing. The thing is, unless it catches everyone totally be surprise and is completely unrelated to something to do with the FBI investigation of the presidential campaign, the "exact reasons" bizarrely almost don't matter.
First, McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The thing is, though, Sessions has recused himself from anything to do with the FBI investigation of the presidential campaign. And since, as I said, it will be beyond shocking if the official "exact reasons" are anything other than about the FBI investigation. So, it's borderline impossible to see how the recused-Sessions could justifiably fire McCabe. In fact, I could stop here since that alone seems pretty darn good enough that the "exact reasons" don't matter.
But there is a second reason. I spent a bit of the weekend reading articles and watching commentary by former FBI agents and experts about procedure in the agency, and it was consistent, with "outraged" being the most consistent observation. The theme that ran through most-everything is that operational standards for FBI agents is monumentally high. One agent told a story about her training supervisor who once went to a hardware store to buy something and accidentally used his FBI identification in the process. Not only was this against FBI policy, honest, but the penalty could have actually been harsh -- yes, for something as seemingly banal as that -- but since it was clearly an accident, he was merely given a warning. The point being that when we hear of an FBI agent breaking agency rules, I suspect that for most people our minds leap to what that might mean in "normal society," and we assume that the person must have done something reprehensible. Not that he presented his badge I.D. to cash a check. But in the world of the FBI, while wrong, while being against the rules, there's a reasonable chance that it had nothing to do with lack of character and deviousness -- just that it fell below those near-impeccable standards of the organization. Which brings up the important, related point: when someone does something wrong in the FBI (just like anywhere in life), there are a range of punishments available -- from the aforementioned warning all the way up the ladder to firing. There are a wide range of options in between. There are official reprimands, suspensions. demotions and more. The only options for an infraction in the FBI are not "warning" or "you're fired." It all depends on what the transgression was. And with that in mind, when a 21-year acclaimed veteran of the FBI, who served as acting director, has himself officially resigned and will be gone from office in just 26 hours -- and firing will likely cause him to lose his $600,000 for a lifetime of service to his country...it is incredibly difficult to see, dancing on the edge of impossible -- and that's with even imagining what McCabe's issue was (including if it existed) -- that "firing" was the proper option.
Logic and sanity don't go that far.
And it's worth adding that, until we know more, it's more possible to imagine that McCabe didn't do anything wrong, not even deserving a reprimand. Mind you, he may have. He may have even deserved a demotion. Or not. But all those options are far more believable than "firing" someone who has already quit, and will be gone in 26 hours. Especially when the firing is done by someone who has recused himself from doing so. And it may case the agent to lose his pension.
There seem to me three possibilities of what happened.
One, that Andrew McCabe did something truly horrible, against every standard of the FBI and it was heinous, almost criminal and was intentionally planned with malice, and firing him was the only proper option.
Two, firing McCabe was a vindictive act to keep him from getting his 21-year pension of $600,000.
Three, by firing Andrew McCabe it would work to discredit him as a witness in the FBI's investigation against Attorney General Sessions' boss, Donald Trump.
Speaking personally, I happen to think Options Two and Three seem reasonable. I think Option One is ludicrous.
To be clear, it's not certain that McCabe will indeed lose his pension. Also, it's apparently possible that if he's hired for another federal job he could retain his pension, and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) has made a public offer to hire McCabe for a temporary two-day job to write a report on election security.
Regardless of what happens with McCabe, though, it's an awful, galling, despicable and typical Trump administration situation. But there is at least one good thing to come of it. By having Andrew McCabe fired and then giddily tweeting about it and gloating how it should demean his credibility, Trump may well have added one more link to his chain of obstruction of justice. And abuse of power.
Not bad for a very stable genius.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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