Politicizing the FBI

Politicizing the FBI

President Trump apparently just can’t stop trying to politicize the FBI.

Pushed By Trump, Sessions Tried To Force Firing of Bureau's Number Two

President Trump apparently just can’t stop trying to politicize the FBI.

Our top law enforcement agency is supposed to be apolitical, but the online news site Axios reports today that at Trump’s urging, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tried to force the firing of Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s number two man.

McCabe’s offense? His wife is a Democrat who with support from Bill and Hillary Clinton once ran – unsuccessfully – for the legislature in Virginia.

Axios says at one point Sessions’s campaign against McCabe was so persistent that FBI boss Christopher Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was dismissed. White House Counsel Don McGahn, fearing a public relations disaster, reportedly interceded to keep Wray and McCabe on the job.

Trump has attacked McCabe repeatedly on Twitter; last fall, the president suggested that McCabe was being kept on the FBI payroll just so he can retire with full benefits when he becomes eligible this spring.

Shades of Nixon?

Trump is certainly not the first president to attempt to co-opt the FBI for political purposes. The articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the only president ever to resign, included charges that he used or tried to use the FBI, the CIA, and the IRS to  undermine his political enemies.

But Trump’s unabashed attempts to influence the FBI are breaking new, and disturbing, ground, even for his fellow Republicans. In December, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, publicly warned Trump against attacking the bureau.

“I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President, I’d watch this,” Graham said.

Meddle, Meddle, Meddle

Word of Sessions’s meddling with the FBI comes as the bureau continues its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s possible role in it. As part of the investigation, Sessions reportedly was interviewed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Sessions apparently is the first member of Trump’s cabinet to be interviewed by Mueller or his team. His meetings during the Trump campaign with representatives of the Russian government are thought to be a focus of the special counsel’s scrutiny.

Trump calls the investigation a hoax and has tried repeatedly to derail it; he fired former FBI Director James Comey last spring after Comey refused to cut off the probe and has said he would not have appointed Sessions to serve as attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. The Comey firing led to Mueller’s appointment.