Trump takes aim at top FBI officials
By Maegan Vazquez, Evan Perez, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
President Donald Trump again took to Twitter to criticize the FBI, this time singling out two FBI officials Saturday afternoon.
“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump wrote in one tweet. In another tweet, Trump said McCabe “is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!”
McCabe told senior FBI officials months ago he was planning on retiring in the coming months, two sources familiar with his plans told CNN. He told senior agents he is eligible to retire in March, the sources said. Under FBI rules governing accumulated leave, he may be able to exit earlier. He is not being forced out, several sources familiar with the situation told CNN.
As for the campaign donations, McCabe himself never received any money for his wife’s campaign for state senate. The president is referencing donations to Dr. Jill McCabe’s campaign, something reported by the Wall Street Journal last year. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee made six contributions totaling $467,500 to McCabe’s campaign, the Journal reported. In addition, campaign records show that the state Democratic Party, over which McAuliffe has great influence, made two other payments totaling $207,788 in September and October 2015. These donations all occurred before McCabe took over as deputy director of the FBI and before he would have had any oversight into the Clinton email investigation.
The criticism of McCabe comes as a growing number of Republicans are questioning the credibility of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s team and Russian officials.
Several Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, have called for McCabe’s removal.
But Democrats argue that the Republican criticisms of McCabe and the FBI are an effort to undermine Mueller as his investigation ramps up, and to give Trump cover should he try to remove Mueller, a step the White House insists is not on the table.
On Twitter Saturday, Trump also took aim at FBI general counsel James Baker, who is being reassigned, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The move was first reported by The Washington Post.
“Wow, ‘FBI lawyer James Baker reassigned…,'” Trump tweeted.
Baker was tapped as the FBI’s top lawyer by then FBI Director James Comey in January 2014.
According to the Post, Baker had recently been caught up in an investigation into a leak involving the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA), and news reports about surveillance methods used by an email provider. The newspaper reported that some NSA officials worried that details of a classified program were revealed while trying to correct a previous report. Sources said that Baker was “distressed” by the probe but had expected to be cleared.
The leak investigation did not factor into his reassignment, according to the Post’s sources.
Baker’s reassignment is not expected to take effect immediately and is not meant to be a political maneuver by FBI Director Christopher Wray, according to the Post.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, responded to Trump’s criticisms Saturday afternoon.
“FBI would set a dangerous precedent if it forced out dedicated career public servants in capitulation to Trump and (White House) pressure,” Schiff tweeted. “President has already removed one top FBI leader — Comey — over Russia; McCabe would be another.”