RNC chair defends Trump’s political litmus test for the FBI

"I ask people who they vote for sometimes. I think it's just trying to get to know somebody."

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During an interview on CNN on Wednesday morning, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said she has no concerns about a report indicating President Trump grilled then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe about who he voted for in the 2016 election.

“I think it’s just a conversation — I don’t think it intends, you know, all these terrible things that people are trying to put forward,” she said. “I ask people who they vote for sometimes. I think it’s just trying to get to know somebody.”

McDaniel was referencing a Washington Post report detailing that Trump — shortly after firing then-FBI Director James Comey amid the bureau’s active investigation into his campaign — had a meeting with McCabe during which he asked who McCabe voted for in the 2016 election.

“McCabe said he didn’t vote, according to [current and former U.S.] officials, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about a sensitive matter,” the Post reported. “McCabe, who has spent more than two decades at the bureau, found the conversation with Trump ‘disturbing,’ said one former U.S. official.”

The Post report also notes that Trump “vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.”

Trump recently attacked McCabe on Twitter for his wife’s ties with Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s December tweet contains numerous factually inaccuracies. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received $500,000 from a PAC controlled by then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe for an unsuccessful Virginia senate bid she made in 2015, before the Clinton email investigation began.

Asking McCabe who he supported for president is just the latest example of Trump putting political pressure on the Department of Justice, which is supposed to operate independently of political influence.

Before firing former FBI Director James Comey, Trump asked him to pledge personal loyalty to him — a request Comey refused. Trump has also repeatedly called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to launch investigations into his political enemies.

More recently, Trump has reportedly been trying to push McCabe out of the FBI. On Tuesday, Axios reported that Sessions — “at the public urging” of Trump — “has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.”

None of this seems to bother McDaniel, however.

“He’s certainly not going around to every single FBI agent and saying, ‘Did you vote for me?'” she said during the CNN interview. “It’s a conversation. He had someone in his office. He kept people on who I know, I’m sure he thinks didn’t support him.”

“This is a president who is just getting to know people, and that’s part of those conversation,” McDaniel added.