After news breaks that FBI deputy director to retire, Trump unloads

Andrew McCabe could be a key witness to Special Counsel Mueller's investigation.

JIM WOLFE, COMMITTEE STAFF MEMBER, LEFT, HELPS DIRECT ACTING FBI DIRECTOR ANDREW MCCABE, SECOND LEFT, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN, AND NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR DAN COATS TO THEIR SEATS FOR A SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING ON CAPITOL HILL, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2017, IN WASHINGTON. (CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON)
JIM WOLFE, COMMITTEE STAFF MEMBER, LEFT, HELPS DIRECT ACTING FBI DIRECTOR ANDREW MCCABE, SECOND LEFT, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL ROD ROSENSTEIN, AND NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR DAN COATS TO THEIR SEATS FOR A SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING ON CAPITOL HILL, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2017, IN WASHINGTON. (CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON)

Saturday afternoon, the Washington Post published a report that Andrew McCabe, the former acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has spent the last few weeks and months being attacked by Donald Trump’s allies, will retire at the age of 49.

The Post noted that McCabe had been a target of Republicans and Trump allies for over a year, but that he “plans to retire in a few months when he becomes fully eligible for pension benefits, according to people familiar with the matter.”

This could have ended a simple bureaucratic story about a government official retiring, if somewhat early, with no obvious motive beyond the superficial. But as he has done with many other heretofore staid and institutional things this year, Donald Trump changed that.

Trump, who had been playing golf into the afternoon, had not tweeted or publicly commented during the holiday weekend. That changed after Fox News ran a segment on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST on the Post report about McCabe and his week of testimony and congressional subpoena threats, as a means of undermining the Mueller investigation.

Seven minutes later, Trump dredged up an old (and debunked) attack on McCabe’s wife for a tweet.

As Factcheck.org noted in July, which the last time Trump tweeted the same attack, McCabe’s wife’s campaign for Virginia State Senate received funding from the Virginia Democratic party and the Virginia governor’s political action committee. McCabe was also not in charge of the investigation at the time of the donations.

Trump then added something extremely peculiar, noting that McCabe “is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!”

It’s unclear whether Trump was cheering McCabe to a faster retirement, concern trolling about whether he would earn a full pension, or simply threatening him.

McCabe reportedly testified privately before Congress this week that former FBI Director James Comey told McCabe about conversations he had with Trump right after they happened. This would make McCabe a key witness into any investigation into an obstruction of justice case involving Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

Whatever the motivation behind the second tweet, it’s a highly controversial and inappropriate statement from a president who is already vulnerable to obstruction of justice charges due to the way he fired Comey, who was investigating Russia’s tampering in the 2016 presidential election in support of Trump’s campaign.

And for good measure, the president of the United States tweeted again about internal FBI personnel matters, noting that another FBI official had been reassigned, something that had been extensively reported on earlier this week.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted that this, coming from Trump, is particularly notable in that he seems to attempt to cast himself as “being outside a system he now runs, by expressing surprise at news that’s been out for days and which he may have learned of from his advisers.” The Baker news was announced within the FBI, and then to the media, four days before the president expressed apparent surprise about it — crediting Fox News, which ran the initial segment that preceded the first Trump tweet.

Trump’s choice to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, was expected to shift senior leadership from officials appointed by Comey to his own team.

And yet this continues a pattern not just of Republican lawmakers grilling FBI officials over investigations into possible corruption by the leader of their party, but of Trump himself consistently attacking the top law enforcement officials in the country — particularly those who could be in a position to investigate him, his administration, and his campaign — whether he had appointed them or not.