The surprise resignation of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe on Monday is simply the latest evidence that President Donald Trump not only expects total loyalty from his Justice Department but suspects anyone who doesn't show that fealty may be part of some sort of anti-Trump "deep state" conspiracy.
Doubt it? Remember what, exactly, McCabe did that drew Trump's ire initially: His wife ran for office in Virginia.
Back in 2015, McCabe's wife, Jill, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Virginia state senate. A PAC affiliated with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe moved almost $500,000 to her campaign.
That was enough for Trump, beginning in July 2017, to see a conspiracy at work:
- "Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!," tweeted Trump on July 25.
- The following day, he tweeted this: "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!"
- Two days before Christmas last year, Trump was back at it. "How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin' James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?" he tweeted.
- Trump wasn't done. "FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!" he tweeted later on December 23.
- Finally, on Christmas Eve, Trump quoted Fox News Channel on McCabe: ".@FoxNews-FBI's Andrew McCabe, 'in addition to his wife getting all of this money from M (Clinton Puppet), he was using, allegedly, his FBI Official Email Account to promote her campaign. You obviously cannot do this. These were the people who were investigating Hillary Clinton.'"
Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that days after firing FBI Director James Comey, Trump met with McCabe at the White House and asked the acting director who he had voted for in the 2016 presidential race. (Trump has said he never asked McCabe about his vote.) That echoed congressional testimony from Comey in which he said Trump had asked him for total loyalty during a meeting early in his presidency.
On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that "the President stands by his previous comments," adding: "The President wasn't part of this decision-making process" that led to McCabe's removal. (Ask yourself whether, based on Trump's tweets, the FBI knew where the President stood on McCabe. Right. Thought so.)
Here's Trump's thinking on McCabe: Wife is a Democrat - McAuliffe donated to her - McAuliffe is close to the Clintons - McCabe is in the pocket of the Clintons.
Seriously. That's it. I am not exaggerating in any way shape or form. Go back and read Trump's tweets. The extent of his case for why McCabe shouldn't be in the FBI is that his wife ran for office as a Democrat and, when she did, someone close to the Clintons (who was also the governor of Virginia!) donated money to her campaign.
To Trump, McCabe can't be at the FBI for that reason and that reason alone. (Though not voting for Trump in 2016 might have something to do with it, too.)
But it goes beyond the fact that Trump believed McCabe was not loyal enough. It's that Trump insinuated that McCabe was part of a broader conspiracy within the FBI to undermine his presidency.
Trump has repeatedly tweeted that the Justice Department has insufficiently investigated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. He has pushed for investigations into why Clinton wasn't charged on her decision to use a private email server as well as the sale of a uranium company to the Russians while she was Secretary of State.
The President has also voiced skepticism -- to put it mildly -- about the ongoing investigation into Russia's attempted interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion. He has called that inquiry a "hoax" and a "witch hunt." Trump has also acknowledged that the Russia investigation played a role in his firing of Comey. And, a month after Trump fired Comey, he also ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller -- although the White House counsel Don McGahn refused to follow through on that directive.
In Trump's mind then, McCabe was part of a broader bloc within the federal bureaucracy that is actively working to hamstring his presidency. Because McCabe's wife got money from Terry McAuliffe and because McAuliffe is close to the Clintons, it must also follow that McCabe went easy on Clinton during the FBI's investigation of her private email server.
That the President believes there is some sort of deep state conspiracy at work in his government is amazing enough. That he believes in it so deeply that he would actively work to remove the deputy director of the FBI is truly remarkable.