As you already know, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe -- against whom President Trump has fulminated in tweets -- no longer occupies his position. CNN's Jim Acosta initially reported that the departure was 'mutual' and done on McCabe's terms, but multiple other networks confirmed that McCabe had be ousted. Why did this occur? We don't know yet, and the White House has referred all questions about the decision to the FBI, averring that the president was not involved in it. A few possibilities come to mind (see update):
(1) The most anodyne explanation is that the controversial McCabe, who is roughly a month-and-a-half away from a previously-announced retirement, did the math and determined that his accrued paid time off allowed him to step aside now. There's some evidence that this was his plan, so it's conceivable that the timing could be a coincidence. On the other hand, reports that he was pushed out undermine the notion that today just happened to be the day. Plus, Allahpundit flags a December Washington Post article that quoted a source who said that McCabe had enough PTO in the bank to have waved goodbye weeks ago.
(2) With an investigation underway from the Justice Department's nonpartisan Inspector General into the FBI and DOJ's handling of the Clinton email scandal probe, it's possible that something uncovered by the IG made McCabe's ongoing position at the Bureau untenable, hence the abrupt 'terminal leave' decision. This tweet from a connected Fox producer linked the IG's actions to McCabe's involuntary departure:
** BREAKING ** McCabe OUT at FBI— Jake Gibson (@JakeBGibson) January 29, 2018
Source familiar says that, in advance of the IG report, McCabe was told to begin what is referred to as “terminal leave.”
(3) We learned this morning that the FBI Director Christopher Wray read the now-infamous 'Russia memo' compiled by House Intelligence Committee Republicans just yesterday. That committee is voting this evening on whether to release that memo to the public (if they vote in the affirmative, the president will have a window of several days to determine whether the executive branch opposes the move; Trump has indicated that he supports it). It's not much of a logical leap to wonder whether Wray saw something in the House Intelligence memo that compelled him to remove his deputy director from his post. If that's the case, it would be a dramatic reversal in Wray's posture:
How devastating must the House Intel report be if the FBI director went from threatening to resign if McCabe was removed to forcing McCabe out after viewing the report?— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) January 29, 2018
Now that a number of people at DOJ have examined its contents, elements of the classified memo have started leaking (after House Republicans kept a tight lid on it for days prior, Kim Strassel points out), including that Trump-appointed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved an extension of surveillance on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who has been suspected of malfeasance vis-a-vis the Russians. I should note that Page was reportedly the subject of a FISA warrant as far back as 2014, long before Donald Trump was a candidate for president. His conduct and contacts with the Kremlin appear very sketchy, to say the least. House Intelligence Committee Democrats insist that their GOP counterparts' version of events in the memo are "cherry-picked" to paint an agenda-driven and incomplete picture of reality. In response, they've written a counter-memo of their own, which also remains secret. If Republicans choose to release their own memo, I think the public should also see the Democrats' document (is there any doubt that Adam Schiff and friends would leak it?), and as much of the underlying intelligence as possible. The timing of McCabe's ouster will only feed speculation about what may lie within the memo Wray viewed on Sunday. Especially in light of that dramatic and yet-unexplained development, I'm inclined to support the release of both memos -- even if the McCabe move turns out to be totally unrelated to it. I'll leave you with his, which makes me queasy:
Even if you agree with former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy that Rosenstein isn't supervising the Mueller probe as robustly as he should, I'm troubled by the idea of Trump -- who reportedly wanted Mueller fired in June -- maneuvering to boot his own DOJ appointee. Rosenstein is the man who approved the Special Counsel probe and selected Mueller to lead it. He's the figure to whom Mueller reports. Firing him would set off loud alarm bells about what might next happen to Mueller, whose investigation may be approaching its conclusion. The president should allow Mueller to complete his work and should keep the related chain of command intact, at least until the investigation's findings are released.
UPDATE - It's looking like 'door number two'. Hmm:
We r told that Mr. Wray found something concerning in pending IG report and he was going to move McCabe into another job, which was effectively a demotion. Instead, McCabe decided to leave the FBI. https://t.co/ebZrnf9w2z— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) January 29, 2018
Remember, Wray had reportedly threatened to quit rather than get pushed around by Trump's anti-McCabe raging. But now he's seen something so significant that it convinced him McCabe couldn't remain in his previous position for a moment longer -- and that something is apparently connected to the IG's review of the Clinton probe. Wow. And then there's this:
I'm told that DOJ inspector general HOROWITZ was expected to brief lawmakers tomorrow on the status of his review of the FBI's handling of the 2016 Clinton investigation.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 29, 2018
But that meeting has now been CANCELED.
Interesting in light of: https://t.co/gcMbagpVja
What did Wray see that was so "concerning"? Stay tuned.
UPDATE II -- As for 'door number three,' the House Intelligence Committee has voted to make the GOP memo public, and to open the Democrats' version to all members of the House. I still believe the Democrats' version should be released, as well.