The last couple of days have been nothing short of surreal.
There was the ongoing, tawdry back-and-forth between porn star Stormy Daniels and the President of the United States (when did we ever see “President” and “porn star” in the same headlines?), culminating in a lawsuit against said porn star for breaching the terms of a nondisclosure agreement that the President has denied had anything to do with him. (I’ll just leave that here for a moment…).
The lawyer who brought that suit should be sued for malpractice.
Far more consequential, of course, was the despicable firing of Andrew McCabe–two days before his pension vested and his announced retirement. If we had needed any additional evidence of Donald Trump’s vindictiveness and utter lack of class, the discharge and the childish tweet that followed it should have provided it.
The purported reasons for the firing were lame enough, but let’s assume that “lack of forthcomingness” actually justified dismissal of a career agent. The legitimate goal of any termination is to rid the organization of a person who is not performing. Human Resources professionals will generally counsel management to avoid “burning bridges”–to effectuate the termination as cleanly and civilly as possible.
McCabe was set to depart in a mere two days. The administration would have been rid of him–presumably, the goal. But Trump couldn’t leave it at that–he had to punish a twenty-one-year civil servant both by publicly humiliating him (a la Tillerson) and by depriving him of the pension he had earned over more than two decades–by terminating him two days before that pension vested.
Whatever else one might say about these two high-profile events, one element stands out: they were both incredibly stupid. (The only person who still believes Donald Trump is intelligent is Donald Trump.)
If Trump wanted to insist that he hadn’t been involved with Stormy Daniels, suing her for disclosing that he was involved wasn’t a genius move. And if he wanted to make it look like McCabe (a lifelong Republican) and the rest of the FBI were engaged in some sort of nefarious vendetta against him, giving McCabe a reason to spill everything he knows about the President probably wasn’t the way to accomplish that.
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions acted late Friday night on Trump’s publicly-stated wishes to terminate former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe — just hours before he was set to retire with full benefits — the president celebrated the ouster as a triumph that exposed “tremendous leaking, lying and corruption” throughout law enforcement.
The move emboldened McCabe, who said in a public statement that his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and the Russia probe being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Like former FBI director James B. Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, McCabe kept contemporaneous memos detailing his fraught conversations with the president, according to two people familiar with the records. The danger for Trump is that those memos could help corroborate McCabe’s witness testimony and become damaging evidence in Mueller’s investigation of whether Trump has sought to obstruct justice.
The most scathing–and appropriate–reaction was that of former CIA director John Brennan, who responded to the events on Twitter:
“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.”
As my grandmother might have said, from Brennan’s mouth to God’s ears.