The man Trump chose to lead the FBI was willing to risk his job to defend FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe from a Trump-led effort to fire him.
Christopher Wray, the man Donald Trump chose to lead the FBI, put his own job on the line after Attorney General Jeff Sessions acted on behalf of Trump and pressured him to remove Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Axios reported Monday night
After months of pressure, Wray told Sessions he would step down if McCabe was removed from his post at the agency, according to the new report. Had he resigned, Wray would be the second FBI director to exit during the first year of Trump's presidency. Historically, nearly all FBI directors have stayed on for multiple presidential terms.
Sessions reportedly discussed Wray's response with the White House, according to Axios. Not wanting to deal with the fallout from another FBI director's exit, they decided that McCabe should stay for the time being. He also relayed the situation to White House counsel Don McGahn, who told Sessions that getting rid of McCabe wasnt worth losing Wray, Axios reported.
McCabe is considered a key witness in the ongoing Russia probe, as one of just a handful of people who can reportedly corroborate the "Comey memo" claiming that Trump demanded former FBI Director James Comey to show his "loyalty" by shutting down the Russia probe. This allegedly resulted in the firing of Comey when he refused Trump's request.
This series of events could prove crucial in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump and those around him engaged in a cover-up. This investigation is separate from the probe into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia so even if no wrongdoing is found in the Russia investigation, Trump and others close to him could still face charges including obstruction of justice.
McCabe has faced weeks of attacks by Trump and his Republican allies, who are trying to sabotage his damning testimony on this matter by impugning his integrity and portraying him as politically biased.
Several GOP lawmakers have called for McCabe to be removed from the agency, and it was reported on Sunday that Sessions, acting on orders from Trump, had started pressuring FBI Director Wray to remove McCabe months ago.
But according to the new report, Wray not only refused to fire McCabe he actually put his own job on the line, in defiance of Trump, to defend McCabe.
This is highly significant for a number of reasons. For one thing, it means that Wray knew what was being asked of him was wrong so wrong that he was willing to resign rather than agree to the request.
Even more significant is the fact that Wray was chosen by Trump to lead the FBI, but when forced to choose between McCabe and Trump, he split with Trump in a very meaningful way. Trump's smear campaign against McCabe is going to be a lot harder to defend now that we know the man he picked as his FBI chief so strongly believes in McCabe's integrity that he was willing to lose his job to defend it.
Just today, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told Axios that Trump appointed Wray "because he is a man of true character and integrity and the right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI and give the rank and file confidence in their leadership."
Wray described by Trump himself as a man of "true character and integrity" just put his own job on the line to vouch for the integrity of a man who can corroborate a potential act of obstruction of justice by the president. And now, if Trump wants to attack McCabe's character again, he'll have to explain why he doesn't even trust his own FBI director the one who he described as "the right choice."
Trump's smear campaign couldn't have backfired more spectacularly. Instead of discrediting McCabe, Trump's actions just boosted his integrity in an irreversible way.