President Trump posted an exultant tweet this week after Andrew McCabe was fired from the FBI on the eve of his retirement. The tweet was ungentlemanly at the very least, which caused McCabe to respond he had left the Bureau with memos he had written after meeting with Trump, and he would be turning those memos over to people who could use them.
This is a repeat of the action former FBI Director James Comey had taken, carrying information with him when he was fired, and threatening to use it to take revenge against Trump. Critics of these actions have pointed out the memos both men took with them when leaving office were actually official FBI documents, written on FBI time, using FBI computers, and memorializing FBI business. It’s entirely possible, too, information in those memoranda qualifies as classified, in which case both men are breaking national security regulations concerning storage and dissemination of classified material in addition to wrongfully taking FBI property with them.
Violation of regulations concerning classified documents is troubling, but the nation learned from Hillary Clinton’s email scandal to ignore such a scandal when it concerns people in the “protected class.”
More troubling is the arrogance McCabe and Comey showed by threatening vengeance on a sitting president for actions entirely within his mandate. As the nation’s chief executive officer, the president can hire and fire members of the Senior Executive Service. Any thought of vengeance is wrong-headed in the extreme. And in truth, Trump didn’t fire McCabe: Attorney General Jeff Sessions did.
Now John Brennan, former director of the CIA, has reacted to that firing with a tweet saying Trump will ultimately take has “rightful place” in the “dustbin of history.” That’s a turn of phrase from Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who was ultimately assassinated on Stalin’s orders. Brennan has more than a passing link to the Soviets: he has admitted to voting for American Communist Party candidate Gus Hall in the 1970s. And yet he was named CIA director!
Obama’s UN Representative Samantha Power followed Brennan’s tweet with a threat of her own against the president, writing it was “not a good idea” to make Brennan angry. The implication, of course, is Brennan knows secrets about President Trump he — along with McCabe and Comey — might use to embarrass Trump or his administration.
All of this is reminiscent of J. Edgar Hoover’s leadership of the FBI from its creation in 1939 until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the Bureau into a world-class investigatory force with cutting-edge lab capabilities. But it’s also said his long tenure at the head of that agency was the result of his ability to collect potentially damaging information on political figures, including members of Congress and presidents. President Truman said of Hoover and the FBI: “They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.”
It’s troubling in the extreme high-level officials in law enforcement, intelligence, and the cabinet of the previous president, would make veiled threats against this administration. But it’s something we have come to expect of senior officials from Obama’s presidency. It’s even more troubling the people who lead public opinion in America — editorial writers and TV commenters — don’t speak out against this attempted coup d’état by holdovers from the previous administration.
I’ve written before about how President Obama led America in the direction of a Third World nation. This is just more evidence of that sad legacy.
Fred LaSor retired from the Foreign Service in 1997 and lives now in Minden.