As the Wiseguys Turn: McCabe, Comey, and the FBI Boys

Back in the heyday of the New York City mafia, the wiseguys used to gather at the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan’s Little Italy, a place on Mulberry Street that John Gotti and the Gambino crime family used as their informal headquarters. Despite Gotti’s best efforts to keep the cops away, the FBI managed to plant listening devices in the club and the apartment above it, which eventually lead to the Teflon Don’s downfall, especially after one of the goodfellas, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, turned informant and ratted out the gang. Gotti was convicted in 1992 and died in federal prison 10 years later.

Thanks in large part to the sweeping powers inherent in the so-called RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act of 1970, the Gambino family—and indeed Italian organized crime—never recovered. Even the acronym was a tip of the fedora to Rico Bandello, the character portrayed by Edward G. Robinson in one of the earliest gangster movies, Little Caesar.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and now it appears we have a new crew of wiseguys, this one operating out of Washington, D.C., with its headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover building, otherwise known as FBI headquarters. The news is that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe—who has been referred to the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution by Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice’s inspector general—wants immunity in exchange for testifying in front of the Senate judiciary committee headed by Charles Grassley of Iowa. At issue are allegedly false statements McCabe made to investigators looking into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and how that “investigation” was handled by former officials at Justice and FBI, among them attorney general Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey.

Pass the popcorn—and this double feature’s just getting started. For, in addition to Little Caesar, there’s a James Cagney classic from 1935 called G Men that everybody involved in this unintended remake ought to watch before the curtain rises. Cagney, in his first major role as a good guy after the string of gangster movies that made him a star, plays Brick Davis, a young lawyer whose legal education, as luck would have it, was financed by a prominent gangster wanting him to go straight.

Scrupulously honest, Cagney’s straight-arrow character has no clients as a result. He turns down an offer from a pal to join the FBI, but when his friend is murdered by gangsters, Cagney joins the Bureau, vowing to get the killers. Naturally, this puts him in direct conflict with his mentor, and it all ends bloodily but happily. Cagney’s character even manages to survive, unlike in the actor’s famous outings in The Public Enemy, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties and White Heat.

But now it seems we’ve flipped the script: what began as an investigation into Russian “collusion” on the part of the Trump campaign and perhaps the president himself, is now steadily being revealed as the sham byproduct of the fixed-fight “probe” of the Clinton email “matter” that allowed the former secretary of state to head into the 2016 election “cleared” of any wrongdoing by the Obama “justice” department. Vengeful over her surprising (but not to me) loss, the Woman Scorned and her cronies in the former administration and the intelligence community then concocted the “collusion” narrative, obligingly peddled to the public by the Democrat-controlled media, to strangle the Trump presidency in its cradle.

And they almost got away with it.

The first clue that the plot was going sideways was the December 2016 announcement by McCabe, Comey’s right-hand man, that he would be “retiring” from the FBI in early 2018, just after fully vesting in his lavish, taxpayer-funded pension. This was, recall, before the straight-arrow Comey’s own firing in May 2017 by Trump, employing a legal justification for the dismissal written by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who then turned around and appointed another noted straight arrow Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor to look into the “collusion” and the origins of Comey’s canning.

Then, on the eve before McCabe was going to cash out, he was suddenly defenestrated by somnolent attorney general Jeff Sessions for lying to investigators regarding his role in the Clinton email investigation. He’s also suspected of leaking to various friendly media outlets in a disinformation operation designed to cover his own posterior. And now, facing the committee, he may well take the Fifth if his demand for immunity is not granted.

In short, it’s a perfect circle of jerks—a bunch of Beltway lawyers (like Brick Davis) in charge of the nation’s cop shop, but who (unlike Brick Davis) have never grilled a suspect or traded shots with the goombahs: desk jockeys well versed in Beltway Borgia backstabbing, but otherwise completely useless in any real investigative function.

But that’s what happens when you have career liars-for-hire running the investigative agencies instead of, you know, real investigators. Back in the early days of the Bureau, the FBI would take law-enforcement pros and make them get law degrees; now it hires lawyers and gives them a badge and a gun. As I wrote in the New York Post after Comey’s firing:

So who should replace Comey? The rumor mills are already churning out names of the usual suspects: a judge (Michael J. Garcia), a prosecutor (Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher), a politician (Sen. John Cornyn of Texas), a veteran fed (Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe) and the Richmond FBI head (Adam Lee).

But the country doesn’t need another politician, jurist or prosecutor at the bureau. It needs someone dogged, determined, experienced, impartial and fearless. Someone sworn to protect and serve, who will follow the evidence wherever it leads and make the appropriate recommendations in the name of justice. Incorruptible and impartial.

In other words, a cop—the best one we have.

That didn’t happen, of course. Instead we got another Ivy League lawyer, Christopher Wray.

It remains to be seen how this movie turns out; after all, the last act has yet to be written. But this time, it’s the good guys—not the media mouthpieces who routinely leap to the defense of the Democrats—acting as the screenwriters. McCabe’s in serious trouble and, if and when he falls, or rolls over, the sanctimonious Comey may be in for it, too. What other ending can there be in a plot for a man who leaked his own memos to the press in order to encourage the duplicitous Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller (Comey’s immediate predecessor at the FBI) to look into the Russian “collusion” charges? What will satisfy the audience more than comeuppance for a man who passed off a dossier that originated with the Clinton campaign and was facilitated by the media in the form of Fusion GPS, the oppo-research organization founded by former journalists and responsible for commissioning a former MI6 spy to compile this imaginary pile of concocted hearsay called “evidence” from Russian “sources” that was then presented by… who else? Rosenstein!—to the FISA courts.

Can the plot get any thicker?

As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up, unless you actually do. But perhaps the gangsters inside the FBI and Justice ought to remember how their namesake, Rico, got his comeuppance—filled full of Hollywood lead and mouthing his last words: “Mother of Mercy – is this the end of Rico?”

Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Washington’s public enemies?

It’s the ending the audience is just dying to see.

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(Photo credit:  John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)  Edward G. Robinson as Cesare Enrico Bandello points a gun at a shadow of a man he just shot in Little Caesar.

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About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction), and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. A sequel, The Fiery Angel, was published by Encounter in May 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @dkahanerules (Photo credit: Peter Duke Photo)

Photo: Edward G. Robinson as Cesare Enrico Bandello points a gun at a shadow of a man he just shot in Little Caesar. (Photo by ?? John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)