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Andrew McCabe’s Unjust Deserts

The disgraced former FBI deputy director has a cushy new job at CNN. He should be elsewhere.


- August 24th, 2019
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I was going to pass by in silent contempt the news that CNN—the network that patrons of airport lounges cordially dislike and that no one else watches—just decided to hire disgraced former FBI honcho Andrew McCabe as a commentator. He’ll fit right in, I thought, with other such mountebanks barking against Donald Trump not only at CNN but also at MSNBC not to mention The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other retirement homes for the anti-Trump fraternity.

But Andrew McCarthy’s column at NRO on Saturday reminded me that the case of McCabe is important. It says something critical not just about one of the most important players in (to cite the subtitle of McCarthy’s new book) “the plot to rig an election and destroy a presidency,” but also about some larger issues, which from one perspective might be said to turn on the task of guaranteeing the peaceful transition of power in a democracy and, from another, on the ambition of our justice system to provide (as the legend chiseled into the pediment of the Supreme Court says) “equal justice under law.”

As I have noticed before in this space, Andrew McCabe was a central player in the pseudo-investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of classified information and self-enrichment schemes while secretary of state. He was one of the people who made sure that the probe went nowhere.

McCabe was also a central figure in the get-Mike-Flynn operation and, later, the Great Trump Hunt that occupied Andrew Weissmann’s Howdy Doody dummy Robert Mueller for some two years. McCabe leaked information about an investigation to a Wall Street Journal reporter and lied about leaking in casual conversations with superiors as well as under oath. Yet he will soon be reporting for duty at CNN.

Andy McCarthy contrasts that happy ending with the treatment meted out to George Papadopoulos, the twentysomething nobody who told the FBI that he met with Main Mystery Man Josef Mifsud—the Maltese professor who reputedly told Pappy that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton—just before he joined the Trump campaign, when in fact it was just after he joined the campaign. This misstatement—was it even a lie?—earned him the full-bore attention of Mueller’s attack team. They swooped down on him as he disembarked from a plane, made sure he spent a night in jail, and, for a tantalizing moment, convinced our former “newspaper of record” that the whole “Russian collusion” wheeze started with him. Meanwhile, where is Mifsud? No one seems to know what’s become of that shadowy intelligence asset.

Eventually, Papadopoulos got off with a sentence of 14-days in the clink, a pro-forma punishment but one designed, I suspect, to show him, and by extension the rest of us proles, just who is boss: the Left’s former sweetheart Robert S. Mueller III and his ilk, not folks like you and me.

There really is not enough contempt to go around for these creeps.

And speaking of the ilk occupied by Mueller, Andrew McCabe, disgraced former deputy director of the FBI, clearly has a condo in that neighborhood. McCabe was fired after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he had lied repeatedly, sometimes under oath, and that he was responsible for leaking sensitive investigative information to the press, i.e., the anti-Trump propaganda machine. Now, this utterly discredited tool of the anti-Trump Left has found redemption in the form of a lucrative media contract.

Andy McCarthy draws two important lessons from this sorry episode. The first lesson is this: “Government officials who leak while demonstrating their contempt for Donald Trump manage to land on their feet. . . . [N]on-government types who mislead government investigations don’t do so well.” As McCarthy observes:

McCabe joins a CNN stable that includes former Obama national intelligence director James Clapper, who is best known for lying to Congress about the government’s bulk collection of telephone metadata . . . and for discussing Steele dossier information with CNN shortly before the network published a report about it . . . and not long before it hired Clapper as a commentator. CNN missed out on former Obama CIA director John Brennan, who falsely denied to the Senate that his agency spied on the chamber’s intelligence committee. Brennan, who said he was really sorry, was inked by MSNBC.

There really is not enough contempt to go around for these creeps.

But McCarthy makes another, subsidiary point that is worth bearing in mind. You might wonder, as I certainly have, why George Papadopoulos was punished at all. I am not convinced that he should have been. McCarthy makes a good point here: “One of the many reasons Americans are winners of life’s lottery,” he notes, “is that we live in a country in which no one may be forced to be a witness against himself. Refusing to speak to police is always an option, so lying should not be. If people came to think they could lie with impunity, the justice system would break down.”

Noted and committed to memory. But—and here’s the real kicker—“it is supposed to be a justice system. One tier, not two. Everyone systematically given equal justice, which is the only justice worthy of the name.” That’s why we have the figure of justice blindfolded, holding a scale. Look closely: she does not have her thumb on that scale. Or does she?

Some Twitter wag applauded McCabe’s appointment as a commentator on CNN because he thought it opened up the possibility that we might witness the spectacle of him being arrested on live television, if “live” is the right adjective for the enervated fare broadcast by CNN. That utopian thinker is too sanguine, I suspect, but it remains possible that McCabe will have his comeuppance once the triumvirate of Attorney General William Barr, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, and U.S. Attorney John Durham finish looking into the tangled swamp that gave us the fantasy of Donald Trump’s collusion with the Russians and other entertainments.

At this point, we really don’t know what those various investigations will reveal. Maybe the 30,000 emails that Hillary bleach-bit into oblivion really were about yoga routines. Maybe she had a legitimate reason to have her cell phones destroyed with a hammer. Maybe it will turn out that hiring Christopher Steele to indulge his creative writing talents by producing his infamous “dossier” was just a matter of bad optics, as was the effort to conceal the origin of the oppo research, and its bad-faith use to obtain warrants to spy on American citizens and (more to the point) obtain a back door into the Trump campaign.

Maybe it was just unprofessional behavior for Peter Strzok and Lisa Page to text each other about their “insurance policy” to take care of Trump in the unlikely eventuality that he was elected as President. Maybe Samantha Power had a good reason to “unmask” those scores of political opponents. And here are some other names to conjure with: former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired after publicly defying an order from President Trump (something that Robert Mueller’s chief barracuda, Andrew Weissmann applauded: “I’m so proud,” he said), James Comey ex officio, Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, and on and on . . . right up to the Oval Office.

McCarthy is right to warn that “we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that errors in judgment and abuses of discretion, even egregious ones, necessarily entail criminal-law violations.” Granted, they do not necessarily entail criminal wrongdoing. But sometimes they do.

The burden of McCarthy’s essay is to point out that a justice system that operates on two tiers is not a justice system at all but rather an injustice system, since it programmatically treats one portion of the population differently from another portion of the population. Is lying under oath or leaking classified information or misrepresenting evidence to a court a crime? If so, then it is as much a crime for Andrew McCabe or James Comey or John Brennan or Hillary Clinton as it is for Mike Flynn or George Papadopoulos. At least, that’s the way it is supposed to work. Does it?

Way back in May 2018, I noted:

What is being exposed is the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States: the effort by highly placed—exactly how highly placed we still do not know—members of one administration to mobilize the intelligence services and police power of the state to spy upon and destroy first the candidacy and then, when that didn’t work, the administration of a political rival.

Nothing that has happened in subsequent months has dissuaded me from that view. Friday’s news about Andrew McCabe only reinforces it.

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