The predictable reaction from some media quarters directed at President Donald Trump over the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, including outlandish comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate days, is reflective of the Big Media echo chamber and the isolation inside the D.C. bubble.
Outside Washington, and especially in Trump country, the whole FBI mess is viewed a little differently.
For the longest time, James Comey, as director of the FBI, portrayed himself as the world’s tallest Boy Scout, and many in the media viewed him that way. Even when his decisions and actions were under scrutiny during the 2016 presidential campaign, Comey exuded a veneer of professionalism and decorum.
Comey destroyed that image, first through his admission that he orchestrated a leak to the New York Times in hopes that it would lead to the appointment of a special counsel — a signal to the FBI rank-and-file he once led that if you can’t achieve what you want through aboveboard means, consider subterfuge. Americans expect the FBI to be better.
Comey later couldn’t resist a Trump-like tweet calling unnamed people “weasels and liars,” revealing more about himself than his intended targets.
Now comes the revelation that not only has he apparently written a quickie book, but he’s also planning a media tour next month to promote it — in the midst of an ongoing special counsel investigation in which he is a key witness. We’re still awaiting the across-the-board media outrage.
Comey has abandoned his carefully cultivated public demeanor as a straight-arrow FBI official in exchange for a self-demotion to the ranks of just another partisan political operative. The real James Comey has emerged.
McCabe’s alleged misdeeds and self-pitying response to his firing lend credence to notions that a D.C. swamp is in need of draining. Despite what so many in the media implied over the weekend, McCabe wasn’t fired by the president. He was fired by the attorney general based on a recommendation from the FBI’s own Office of Professional Responsibility, following an investigation by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz — an appointee of President Barack Obama.
This is the same Andrew McCabe apparently referenced in a text message from FBI agent Peter Strzok to FBI lawyer Lisa Page during the 2016 campaign, on the topic of a meeting they attended in “Andy’s office” about their fears of a Trump victory.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok wrote to Page.
Pause and think about this conversation. Media reports have suggested the agency’s probe of possible interactions between Russia and members of the Trump team was being referenced here — and if true, that’s damning enough — but I still have questions. This reads to me like a choice. Trump probably won’t get elected, but “I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”
No matter how fervent Trump-haters try to play down those words, this extraordinary statement of bias was the takeaway from a meeting that took place at the highest ranks of the FBI.
And of course the unthinkable did happen. Trump won. That the Russians tried to interfere in our elections was clear, because it wasn’t the first time Russia or another foreign power — often China — had tried to disrupt our elections. The Obama administration barely reacted to it, remember, aside from Obama’s warning to Vladimir Putin to “cut it out.”
Is it any wonder that Trump — as he rails against the collusion theory as fake news and the Mueller probe as a witch hunt — might come to doubt that he can get a fair shake from the FBI?
Watching this saga unfold, I find allegations of collusion increasingly unconvincing. Maybe you see it differently. But the Strzok-Page texts should alarm us all. What we have learned about Comey and McCabe and their self-serving words and deeds is astounding. And the effort by so many in the media, driven by their hatred of Trump, to defend the indefensible is disheartening.
The media’s embrace of porn star Stormy Daniels and her tabloid-fodder allegations of an encounter with Trump is at least understandable in this day and age. Their even warmer embrace of Comey, McCabe and a politicized FBI is a more abhorrent choice.
Gary Abernathy is publisher and editor of the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette. He wrote this article for the Washington Post.