Trump's lawyer accidentally bolstered a potential obstruction case by revealing that Trump hopes the firing of Andrew McCabe will shut down the Russia probe.
If Trump hoped the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Friday would relieve some of the pressure from the ongoing Russia investigation, he was sorely mistaken.
Instead, the ouster of the career FBI official has left Trump looking guiltier than ever — and his personal defense lawyer only made things worse Saturday when he slipped up and revealed that McCabe’s firing is directly linked to the Russia probe.
The circumstances of McCabe’s termination were suspicious from the very start. His ouster, which came barely 24 hours before he was set to retire, was described as unprecedented by one former FBI agent, while Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said it suggests there were political motives involved.
But the timing is just the tip of the iceberg.
As one of only three people who can reportedly corroborate the circumstances surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey — who testified under oath that Trump pressured him to drop the Russia investigation before firing him — McCabe is considered a key witness in a potential obstruction of justice case against Trump.
Trump knows that Comey’s account could put him in grave legal jeopardy. He already fired Comey, and getting rid of McCabe under the pretenses that he was not forthcoming during an internal FBI investigation is a perfect way to try to discredit any future testimony he may offer.
And that’s exactly what Trump appeared to be trying to do just two hours after it was announced that McCabe had been fired. In a tweet posted minutes after midnight Saturday, Trump celebrated the ouster of McCabe and launched renewed attacks on the credibility of both Comey and McCabe.
“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”
McCabe’s ouster also comes after an intense smear campaign, reportedly carried out under the direction of Trump, targeting McCabe and two other top FBI officials. While Trump and his allies have frequently engaged in coordinated attacks against the FBI and the officials who work there, the targets of this smear campaign were not chosen at random. Rather, they were the specific people who were most likely to testify against Trump and corroborate Comey’s testimony.
Shortly after his firing was announced, McCabe seemed to confirm many of these suspicions, telling the New York Times that he believes he was fired as part of an effort to damage his credibility as a witness in Mueller’s investigation.
“The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he told the Times, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”
Of course, the White House is doing its best to claim that McCabe was fired under proper circumstances — or at least it was, until Saturday morning, when Trump’s personal lawyer cited the firing as a rationale for shutting down the Russia investigation.
John Dowd, who serves as Trump’s personal defense lawyer, told The Daily Beast that he thinks Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should shut down the special counsel’s investigation. When he made the remarks, he said he was speaking in his capacity as Trump’s lawyer — and even referred to Trump’s tweet about McCabe’s firing.
Shortly after The Daily Beast published the report, Dowd appeared to realize his slip-up and tried to walk back his remarks, saying that he was acting in his personal capacity and not as Trump’s lawyer.
Dowd’s comments confirmed what many had already believed — that Trump views the firing of McCabe as a way to bring the Russia investigation to an end.
Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal law, told Business Insider that Dowd’s statement “basically confirms McCabe’s statement from last night: that McCabe’s 11th hour termination from the FBI was directly tied to the Russia investigation, for which McCabe is a crucial witness.”
“Dowd just confirmed it by connecting the two events and saying that Rosenstein should shut down the Russia investigation and ‘follow the brilliant and courageous example’ of AG Sessions,” Ohlin added.
Former DOJ official Matthew Miller had a similar reaction to Dowd’s comments. “Here it is, the point all of the attacks on law enforcement by Trump, Nunes, Fox News and the rest have been inevitably building to,” Miller tweeted, referencing The Daily Beast report. “Red alert time.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that the remarks “are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn.”
The irony of this situation is that it appears that Trump encouraged the firing of McCabe to protect himself from potentially damning testimony in an obstruction of justice case — but in doing so, he may have just sealed the case against himself.