Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is abruptly leaving his position just weeks before his scheduled retirement, triggering a frenzy of speculation from the left and the right, but a former federal prosecutor says McCabe is just one part of a baffling approach to the Russia investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department.
Another Monday stunner is the revelation, reportedly in the FISA memo from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered surveillance former Trump campaign figure Carter Page based on the dossier compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele and funded for months by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Word of McCabe’s rapid exit was first reported Monday afternoon. Democrats and many mainstream media figures quickly wondered whether President Trump forced McCabe out given some critical tweets in the past. Conservatives quickly tied the news to FBI Director Christopher Wray viewing the highly touted FISA memo on Capitol Hill over the weekend.
So far, no concrete answers have been given, but former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing strongly doubts Trump ordered this move.
“It’s all speculation as to whether it was Wray. I can’t imagine it was Trump because Trump probably wanted him out of there months ago. That’s my reaction. Why now? So little so late,” said Toensing.
Toensing notes that McCabe has amassed enough sick leave and vacation time that he can stop working now and still receive full retirement benefits, leaving her to conclude this development may have nothing to do with politics at all.
Toensing is highly critical of McCabe on multiple fronts, starting with his allegedly soft handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Even though McCabe recused himself from the probe while his wife was running as a Democrat for state office in Virginia, Toensing says the failure to record Clinton’s testimony or put her under oath was inexcusable.
She is also furious over what she’s sees as McCabe’s slick manner in getting former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to talk with the FBI.
“He called Flynn’s office and said, ‘The FBI would like to talk to you,’ and made it appear like the talk was going to be about personnel and background. Instead, the FBI showed up with Peter Strzok and surprised the general with, ‘What did you say to the Russian ambassador?'” said Toensing.
Strzok is the agent removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team for persistent Trump-bashing.
Toensing says the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe and the failure to put any guardrails on Mueller have deeply damaged the reputation of the FBI and the Justice Department.
“I’ve worked with the FBI and I’m such a great admirer of their professionalism. I’ve worked with them as recently as the last month at the local level,” said Toensing.
“But the hierarchy came in and took over. That’s a shame and it’s effecting their credibility. There’s a recent poll where 49 percent of the people think the FBI is hiding information from Congress. That’s not good. The FBI should be wanting to get it out, not hiding it,” she said.
What hierarchy is Toensing referring to? Specifically, she lists McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey, former President Barack Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
She says the revelations to date on “unmasking” of figures in the Trump campaign proves Obama was deeply involved in all of this.
“The new Trump administration people found evidence of the Obama White House unmasking the Trump campaign and listening in,” said Toensing.
“The Trump NSC staff found those documents and that’s how (House Intelligence Committee Chairman) Devin Nunes was called up to the White House to review documents that he them revealed and the Democrats went after him for revealing classified information,” said Toensing.
While McCabe’s departure cannot be tied to the FISA memo immediately following the reports of his departure, the memo is apparently the source for revealing that Rosenstein used the FISA powers of the United States to spy on Carter Page.
Toensing says that news demands answers.
“[Page] was an American citizen, traveling to Russia which is what he did. This is what he did. He had Russia as an interest. Why was he being surveilled in any way whatsoever?” asked Toensing.
Toensing says Rosenstein has even more to answer for, including how he based a decision to keep tabs on Page based on a dossier that has at least partly been discredited.
“I would have hoped that he would have looked behind that dossier and gotten some kind of cooperation, rather than just a document by a political adversary. I would have hoped that he would have asked, ‘What is the basis for this document saying all these things?'” said Toensing.
“I signed FISA warrants when I was at the Justice Department. I know how to go behind the facts. So I would have hoped he had done that,” said Toensing.
She also blames Rosenstein for allowing the Russia investigation to get diverted from its original purpose, virtually from the start.
“Whatever the Russians did to our election should have been investigated [as a counter-intelligence matter], not as a criminal prosecution. So by setting up a special counsel to make a criminal investigation, Rod really went off the reservation,” said Toensing.