Saturday Morning Briefing: All Hell Breaks Loose
Yesterday morning, it looked like there would be a bloodbath in the White House. There were fears/concerns that multiple people would be fired, and yet it remained a strangely quiet day.
And then, around 5:00, all hell broke loose.
The first headline-grabbing story came from an “off-the-record” meeting between the press and John Kelly, who basically told the press that all the rumors about officials being fired came from the President himself. He tells officials/friends about his plans to fire someone, but those plans do not always come to fruition immediately. Point being: Kelly and McMaster have not yet been fired, but Trump is thinking about it. He’s thinking about firing a lot of people, and he’s sharing those plans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen immediately, but Trump usually does eventually follow through on those plans. Kelly also said that potential incoming Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow shouldn’t have any security clearance problems despite a past history of cocaine because the “90s were a crazy time.”
And then John Kelly said that he told Tillerson he’d been fired while Tillerson was on the toilet, because why not further humiliate a guy who has already been thoroughly humiliated?
The Tillerson anecdote seemed like it would be the big story of the day, but that was immediately erased by several other stories. For one, after we learned that Stormy Daniels had been “physically threatened” by Trump associates, and after we learned some of the allegations Stormy Daniels is alleging against Trump happened during his Presidency, and after we learned that there are up to six more women with similar stories, Trump decided to file a $20 million lawsuit against Stormy Daniels to further silence her.
What does Stormy Daniels know that Trump is willing to file a federal suit to keep her quiet? Or is there a fear that, if Stormy Daniels is successful in her legal efforts to quash the NDA, that many, many more women will come forward?
After more Stormy Daniels news broke, we learned that Cambridge Analytica — the data firm used by the Trump campaign — had been suspended by Facebook for fraud committed during the campaign. The firm passed along private data to a third party, which is against Facebook rules. (Jared Kushner, by the way, basically attributed the 2016 win to their data collection efforts.) Any other day, and that’s a huge news story. Not this Friday, however.
Because there were a few other stories, too, including the fact that Felix Sater — one of Trump’s shady business partners — the guy trying to negotiate a deal for Trump to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow — allegedly believes that both he and Trump will be going to prison. “For several weeks there have been rumours that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. ‘He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ someone talking to Mueller’s investigators informed me.”
Ultimately, however, everything was overshadowed last night by the fact that Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe two days before he was scheduled to retire and collect a $1.8 million pension.
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
I don’t think we all quite yet understand the import of this. Trump basically fired the former number two at the FBI after firing the number one, James Comey, and he did so because McCabe protected Comey. And make no mistake: This was entirely political. McCabe — who found out that he’d been fired 9 minutes before the media — released a blistering statement last night in what is sure to be the first salvo in a long battle that I personally believe may end up doing more damage to Trump than the firing of James Comey. If you haven’t yet, take a minute and read his statement:
Statement from Andrew McCabe following his firing (via ABC News): "Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey." pic.twitter.com/hehTm5SkX3— Axios (@axios) March 17, 2018
This was political, pure and simple: Trump has been trying to fire the guy for months, and guess who knew before anyone else? Fox News.
It’s worth noting here, again, that Trump fired James Comey because, at the time, Trump had alleged that Comey had been unfair to Hillary Clinton during the email investigation. McCabe was fired ostensibly because he stood up to the DOJ and insisted on investigating Hillary Clinton’s foundation against their wishes.
Tonight we know the Trump administration has now fired *both* the FBI Director *and* the Deputy FBI Director—and claimed both firings are because of the Clinton investigation.— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 17, 2018
Sessions involved in both firings, while claiming to be recused from matters involving 2016 campaigns.
Trump wanted loyalty from James Comey. He didn’t get it, so he fired him. He wanted loyalty from Andrew McCabe — who was briefly considered as Comey’s replacement — but he couldn’t get it, so he had McCabe fired.
McCabe will undoubtedly sue, and he already has a powerful case. He will probably continue to talk to the media. He may write a book. Here’s what he said to ABC last night (and read the entire piece, if you have a second):
McCabe recently sat down with ABC News and said he wanted to make one thing clear: “I firmly believe what’s happening to me right now … is just a piece of an ongoing assault” on the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s looking into Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election and alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
McCabe said he “played a significant role and witnessed significant events” after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director last year, “so a concentrated effort to consistently undermine my credibility and my reputation makes perfect sense if you are trying to undermine the efforts of the special counsel and discredit the entire FBI.”
The undoing of McCabe’s career is “just the latest step in that process,” he said.
And if you want to know what kind of man McCabe is, read this thread. He’s good people:
One of the cool things about going through FOIAs is you really get a sense for the backstory and personalities of the people behind the headlines— Pwn All The Things (@pwnallthethings) January 7, 2018
Here’s the former head of the CIA:
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
And if there’s any question about where Trump is headed with all of this, this should clear up any confusion:
Daily Beast: Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd calls on Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to "bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier."— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) March 17, 2018
It’s an insane time in American politics. Just consider all of what is going on at the moment: Trump has created chaos bordering on mania in the White House and he’s burning bridges left and right; he’s in a high-profile legal dispute with a porn star; he’s in a dangerous fight with the FBI; he’s under investigation by Bob Mueller; and he’s looking at a likely blue wave in the midterm elections.
If he somehow survives 2018, I don’t see how he survives through 2019.