ON THE RECORD
Andrew McCabe on Trump’s ‘Bizarre’ Job Interview, ‘Astounding’ Putin Comments
The former acting FBI director says Trump was almost “gleeful” after firing Comey and unleashing “chaos” on the FBI, but the version of events he was selling was “not reality.”
Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe says he was fired from the bureau because he dared to go against President Trump—whom he portrayed as delusional and almost “gleeful” about firing then-FBI Director James Comey in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday night.
During the interview with CBS, part of his promotion of his new book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, McCabe doubled down on his assertions that Trump's decision to fire Comey in May 2017 sparked so much alarm within the agency that it spurred talk of invoking the 25th Amendment.
But in addition to firing Comey and publicly disparaging the investigation into Russia’s election interference, McCabe said, Trump had made “astounding” remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States,” McCabe told correspondent Scott Pelley. “And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don't actually have those missiles.” When he was told that U.S. intelligence thought otherwise, McCabe claimed that Trump responded, “I don't care. I believe Putin.”
Trump also sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community on the Kremlin's election interference, stating publicly last summer in a joint press conference alongside the Russian leader in Helsinki that he did not “see any reason why” Russia would be to blame for election meddling, especially since Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” That meeting has come under renewed scrutiny recently after several officials were reportedly unable to get a readout of what went on during Trump's closed-door meeting with Putin.
Speaking of Trump’s decision to axe Comey and his public comments characterizing the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt,” McCabe said the FBI “had reason to investigate” whether Trump was compromised in some way. “Why would a president of the United States do that?”
“Is there an inappropriate relationship—a connection between this president—and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”
Trump is also said to have been oblivious to the fact that his firing of Comey would spark suspicions within the FBI, instead being convinced that he had the full support of everyone within the agency. When he was called in for an interview with Trump about possibly remaining on as the permanent FBI director in the wake of Comey's ouster, McCabe said, Trump spent a lot of time talking about himself.
“It was a bit of a bizarre experience. I went in for my interview with the president and he began by talking to me about his electoral college results in the state of North Carolina.”
He also “talked about the support that he enjoyed from within the FBI. He estimated that 80 percent of FBI employees must have voted for him, and he asked me if I thought that was true,” McCabe said. At the end of the interview, he said, he responded to a question Trump had earlier posed to him about who he’d voted for.
“I told him that I didn’t vote for him, and then that was pretty much the end of the interview.”
While the FBI was “shocked” and concerned by Trump’s decision to fire Comey, McCabe said, Trump himself was in alarmingly good spirits when he called McCabe into the Oval Office to discuss the situation.
“The president immediately went off on an almost a gleeful description of what had happened with the firing of Jim Comey. And then he went on to state that people in the FBI were—were thrilled about this, that people really disliked Jim Comey and that they were very happy about this and that it was, it was a great thing.”
“It was very different than the reaction I had seen immediately before I came to the White House… that night in the Oval Office what I was hearing from the president was, not reality. It was the version of the events that I quickly realized he wished me to adopt.”
McCabe said he decided to start an obstruction of justice investigation and a counterintelligence investigation into Trump soon after that conversation in the Oval Office, making sure to get the investigations on “absolutely solid ground” should he be “removed quickly or reassigned or fired.”
He was fired 10 months later, he said, “because I opened a case against the president of the United States.” At the time of his dismissal in March 2018, Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said McCabe was fired at the recommendation of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility after he had inappropriately authorized the disclosure of information to a Wall Street Journal reporter.
Trump embraced his firing at the time as a “great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI” and “a great day for Democracy.”
As McCabe’s interview aired late Sunday, Trump re-upped his attacks, retweeting his own earlier posts blasting the former acting FBI director as a “disgrace.”