5 claims McCabe made after being fired

Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE, the former No. 2 official at the FBI, made a series of comments to the press following his ouster on Friday night in which he commented on claims made about his performance and duties at the FBI.

Here are five of McCabe’s most remarkable claims:

Firing an attempt to undermine Mueller probe

McCabe claims that during the time he spent as acting director at the FBI, after President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE fired former Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Assessing Trump’s impeachment odds through a historic lens Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? MORE, he pushed for Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s appointment as special counsel to take over the investigation into Russian election interference.

“I didn’t want anyone to be able to just walk away from the work that we had done,” he told Politico.

But McCabe claims that Mueller’s ongoing investigation is being targeted by Trump and his own firing is further evidence that the administration is seeking to undermine it.

“This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness,” McCabe told The New York Times.

McCabe told ABC News he “witnessed significant events” during his time at the FBI “so a concentrated effort to consistently undermine my credibility and my reputation makes perfect sense if you are trying to undermine the efforts of the special counsel and discredit the entire FBI.”

Denies leaking to media

One of the accusations against McCabe is that he “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media,” according to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand MORE. That charge comes from an internal FBI investigation that Sessions cited in firing McCabe on Friday night.

McCabe claimed in a statement that he had the authority to share information with the media.

“It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter,” he said. “It was the type of exchange with the media that the deputy director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request.”

He told ABC, “the fact is this is not a leak.”

The inspector general report, which has not yet been released, reportedly found that, in 2016, McCabe allowed FBI officials to speak with The Wall Street Journal about how the agency handled the probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC ‘got scammed’ into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE‘s use of a private email server while secretary of State.

McCabe told ABC that he made the decision to supply information to reporters in order to counter a narrative that the FBI was not pursuing the Clinton investigation aggressively.

In order to get the reporter “off the narrative,” McCabe authorized the release of “the content of a conversation that I had had with [a senior official] from the Department of Justice” about the investigation.

Neither Comey nor current FBI Director Christopher Wray have weighed in on these claims, but Comey has been supportive of McCabe, saying after news emerged in January that McCabe would step down that he had “served with distinction.”

Accuses Republicans of misquoting testimony

What McCabe did or did not say during a closed-door congressional hearing has been a key source of controversy between Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee — and now McCabe is weighing in.

McCabe sided with the Democrats’ version of his testimony, which was recounted in a memo that House Intelligence Democrats released in February to counter one released by Republicans on the panel a few weeks prior.

Republicans insisted that McCabe testified to the committee that unverified material supplied by the so-called “Steele dossier” was integral to the FBI securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, arguing that helped prompt the ongoing federal probe into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Democrats said McCabe did not claim the FISA application depended on the dossier, which McCabe now corroborates.

“We started the investigations without the dossier. We were proceeding with the investigations before we ever received that information,” McCabe told CNN. “Was the dossier material important to the package? Of course, it was. As was every fact included in that package. Was it the majority of what was in the package? Absolutely not.”

McCabe’s comments could be key to the Democrats’ ongoing attempt to shore up the FBI’s Russia probe.

Says Trump asked who he voted for, called wife a ‘loser’

McCabe said the president did ask him whether he voted for Trump in 2016, contradicting Trump’s previous denials of past news reports.

McCabe, who told ABC he “voted for every Republican candidate for president in every election” previously, said he did not vote in 2016.

But he said his decision not to vote was not motivated by Trump’s candidacy or by his wife running as a Democrat in Virginia.

McCabe’s wife, Jill, received political donations from Democratic governor and Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe (Va.) during her bid for state office in 2015, which has been an ongoing source of conflict between McCabe and Trump.

“In May, when Director Comey was fired and I had my own interactions with the president, he brought up my wife every time I ever spoke to him,” McCabe told CNN. He recounted four occasions in which he said Trump called his wife’s campaign a “mistake” or “problem” and called his wife a “loser.”

The alleged “loser” comment was previously reported by NBC News and denied as “pure fiction” by the White House.

“Of course, I disagreed with [Trump],” McCabe told CNN. “I don’t see my wife’s decision to try to enter public life to help her community [have] greater access to healthcare as a mistake or a problem.”

Trump in January denied asking McCabe who he voted for, although he also said he didn’t consider such a question “a big deal.”

McCabe has said his wife’s unsuccessful campaign happened well before he took charge of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton. However, he did eventually recuse himself from the investigation the month before the presidential election.

Argues Trump is to blame

McCabe went after President Trump explicitly in the statement he released following his firing, further escalating the bad blood between Trump and former FBI leaders.

“The OIG’s focus on me and this report became part of an unprecedented effort by the administration, driven by the president himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn,” he said. “For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegations against us. The president’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all.”

The full allegations against McCabe — beyond the alleged leak and a “lack of candor” — are not known, because the OIG report is not yet public. McCabe’s decision to step down in January, and his subsequent firing Friday, just two days before he was set to officially retire, were apparently both prompted by findings in the report, which is the result of a year-long investigation and expected to be released later this spring.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said the decision whether or not to fire McCabe would be made by Sessions, but added that he “has had some very troubling behavior and [is] by most accounts a bad actor.”

Those comments follow months of criticism directed at McCabe by Trump.

McCabe’s official retirement was planned for Sunday, when he would be eligible to receive his full pension benefits. McCabe’s firing on Friday puts his pension into doubt.

Some observers expect McCabe to seek legal action — even potentially filing a lawsuit — against the administration.

“McCabe will win his appeal,” predicted Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.).

http://thehill.com

Dem offers to hire McCabe to help him qualify for his pension

A Democratic lawmaker on Saturday offered to hire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE in an effort to help McCabe qualify to receive his pension after being fired from the agency two days before he qualified to receive it.

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanDem criticizes Trump for ‘thumbs-up’ in Florida House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid immigration fight MORE (D-Wis.) was responding to a tweet from NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said the former FBI official might still be able to receive his pension if he’s hired by a member of Congress.

“Andrew call me. I could use a good two-day report on the biggest crime families in Washington, D.C.,” Pocan tweeted.

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Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsUnder pressure, Trump shifts blame for Russia intrusion Overnight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won’t stand MORE fired McCabe on Friday, two days before McCabe would qualify for his pension.

Sessions dismissed McCabe after an internal report found he shared unauthorized information with the media and was not completely honest with investigators during their review.

The former FBI official claimed he was fired as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe, and that he was authorized to share the disputed information with the media at the time.

http://thehill.com

McCabe out, Trump gloats

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT — FACEBOOK suspended Cambridge Analytica last night. http://bit.ly/2FGuZPe

AND THIS IS PROBABLY WHY … THE NYT/THE OBSERVER OF LONDON just popped a big story by MATT ROSENBERG, NICK CONFESSORE and CAROLE CADWALLADR from London with the headline: “How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions”: “As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

Story Continued Below

“The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

“So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.” http://nyti.ms/2Iv3S7P

NYT’S SHERYL STOLBERG and JONATHAN MARTIN stick a fork in the STEVE BANNON revolt. http://nyti.ms/2HHKumT

ALSO … UMBC became the first 16th seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed when they beat the University of Virginia 74-54. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) picked them and talked some trash on Twitter last night. http://bit.ly/2HDAMS8 … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has them going all the way in his Playbook bracket. http://bit.ly/2DB12Kt

Good Saturday morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

THE BIG DRAMA OVERNIGHT — MCCABE OUT … “Sessions fires former FBI deputy director McCabe,” by Josh Gerstein and Cristiano Lima: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Friday night, dismissing the longtime bureau veteran who had been publicly pilloried by President Donald Trump. Sessions said the firing — carried out a little more than a day before McCabe was set to retire from the FBI — was triggered by internal reviews that concluded McCabe violated Justice Department policies and was not forthcoming with investigators probing FBI actions before the 2016 presidential election.

“Justice Department officials determined that ‘McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions,’ the attorney general said in a statement. ‘The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability,’ Sessions added.

“McCabe quickly lashed back Friday, linking the firing to the repeated public flogging he faced from Trump. The former FBI No. 2 also tied his dismissal to the fact that he can support former FBI Director James Comey’s account that he was fired because of an unwillingness to shut down the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.

“‘Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,’ McCabe said in a statement. ‘The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the President.’” http://politi.co/2pks049McCabe’s full statement http://politi.co/2tVwG5X

STATEMENT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE — @realDonaldTrump at eight minutes past midnight: “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

MAGGIE HABERMAN (@maggieNYT): “The president’s penchant for grievance-filled humiliations is becoming government policy more broadly”.

MATTHEW MILLER (@matthewamiller): “Thing I can’t get past on McCabe is Sessions’ role. He is both recused from the underlying case and the target of enormous pressure from POTUS. Smartest course of action would’ve been recusal – fact he didn’t shows he wanted the credit with Trump for this.”

ELANA SCHOR interviewed MCCABE earlier this month: “‘Look, it’s personally devastating. It’s so tough on my family,’ … ‘But at some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,’ said McCabe, 49, who says he has voted for every Republican presidential nominee until he sat out the 2016 contest entirely.

“‘And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.’ ‘They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted,’ McCabe added. ‘And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.’” http://politi.co/2IwEIW5

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “John Kelly: Rex Tillerson Was on the Toilet When I Told Him He’d Be Getting Fired,” by the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng: “Reporters gathered at the White House on Friday were stunned when Chief of Staff John Kelly shared a very embarrassing story about outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. …

“According to [three] sources, Kelly recounted a very awkward conversation with Tillerson during which he informed the secretary that President Donald Trump would very likely soon fire him. The awkwardness was less a result of the contents of the conversation than its setting. Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.” http://thebea.st/2DA4m8P

STEP BACK … THE PRESIDENT gloated about firing McCabe and his chief of staff told reporters that he fired the secretary of state when he was on the john.

SPOTTED: REX TILLERSON last night at Mexican restaurant Alero near Dupont Circle. He arrived around 5:30 and left three hours later, according to our tipster.

****** A message from Business Roundtable: Trade drives American prosperity. International trade is essential to a prosperous American economy. Now is the time to modernize agreements and expand free and fair trade – not restrict opportunities for American businesses to compete and create jobs. See what CEOs are saying about the importance of international trade at trade.brt.org. ******

A TALE OF TWO TRUMPS — FROM 30,000 FEET — MICHAEL CROWLEY and BLAKE HOUNSHELL in POLITICO Magazine, “On Russia, There Are Two Trumps: His team is going hard after Moscow. The president is not”: “The Trump administration denounces Russia for using nerve agent on British soil. President Donald Trump says nothing for days, then calls it ‘a very sad situation.’

“The Trump administration castigates Russia for indiscriminate killing in Syria. Trump says nothing about it. The Trump administration sanctions Russian hackers for meddling in the 2016 election. Trump muses that it could have been China or ‘many other people.’ The Trump administration condemns Putin’s unveiling of a new generation of Russian nuclear weapons. Trump remains silent.

“Trump’s intelligence community stands by its conclusion that the Kremlin sought to help elect Trump in 2016. Trump insists the Russians actually opposed his election because he’s ‘a big military person.’ Trump’s national security adviser calls the evidence of Russian interference ‘incontrovertible.’ Trump rebukes him on Twitter the next day.

“The Trump administration pushes to harden America’s defenses for the 2018 midterms. Trump won’t even convene a meeting on the subject. The Trump administration reassures NATO countries that America has their back against Russian intimidation. Trump complains incessantly that they need to pay more for their own defense.” http://politi.co/2G37Xl9

SHINE FOR COMMS GIG? — “Trump settles in as producer in chief,” by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak: “[H]e’s slated to discuss the open position of communications director with Bill Shine, the co-president of Fox News who stepped down last year after he was criticized for the way he handled sexual harassment claims at the network, in the coming days.” http://cnn.it/2pl6Kv5

— WE’VE BEEN TOLD an official process hasn’t been laid out for filling the communications director slot. So far, MERCEDES SCHLAPP and TONY SAYEGH are the top two candidates for the gig, but it’s unclear how quickly Trump will make a decision. There are some in the White House who don’t believe he needs to move fast to fill Hope Hicks’ job. THE TWO CAMPS: Schlapp is a favorite of John Kelly, while Sayegh has backers among the New York and campaign set. He also worked very closely with Hicks (they shared an office in the White House during tax reform).

THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION …

— “Mueller witness was convicted on child porn charge,” by Josh Gerstein: “A Middle East expert and analyst who consulted with the Trump administration and was questioned by investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge in 1991, court records released on Friday show.

“George Nader, 58, was involved in several foreign policy meetings during the Trump transition and at the White House last year. Nader received a six-month sentence from a federal court in Northern Virginia in 1991 on a felony charge of transporting sexually explicit materials in foreign commerce, according to the newly released records and to prison records POLITICO obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.” http://politi.co/2G4x2w6

RUSSIA WATCH — “FEC probes whether NRA got illegal Russian donations,” by Josh Meyer: “The [FEC] has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the [NRA] that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe.

“The inquiry stems in part from a complaint from a liberal advocacy group, the American Democracy Fund, which asked the FEC to look into media reports about links between the rifle association and Russian entities, including a banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman for the NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which together contributed $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, declined to comment on the FEC’s probe.” http://politi.co/2DylA6A

THE LATEST ON STORMY — “Trump’s Lawyers Claim Stormy Daniels Violated Confidentiality Agreement at Least 20 Times,” by NYT’s Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman: “President Trump, weighing in directly on the Stephanie Clifford case for the first time, claimed in court papers filed by his lawyers on Friday that the porn actress who alleges she had an affair with him violated a confidentiality agreement at least 20 times, exposing her to damages of at least $20 million.

“President Trump’s lawyers filed two motions on Friday in United States District Court in California in a public legal fight that Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, started last week. That’s when she sued to get out of an agreement that she had struck to be paid $130,000 to stay silent about an affair she alleges to have had with Mr. Trump starting in 2006. Mr. Trump formally joined his legal team’s response to Ms. Clifford’s suit in a motion, filed Friday, to move the case from state court in Los Angeles, where Ms. Clifford filed her claim, to federal court.” http://nyti.ms/2FOw1Vs

UNION LEADER (Manchester, N.H.): “Arizona’s Flake, at NH breakfast, slams Trump, ‘poisonous politics’” http://bit.ly/2pjufph

YOU’RE INVITED … Join us for our first Playbook University in North Carolina with GOV. ROY COOPER on March 29 at Penn Pavilion at Duke University. Doors open at 11:45 a.m. RSVP http://bit.ly/2IqsO09

CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 16 keepers http://politi.co/2G2b6BA

DETAILS EMERGE IN MIAMI — “Bridge designer left state voice mail about cracks days before FIU bridge collapsed,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas, David Smiley and Daniel Chang: “Two days before a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University, killing at least six people, an engineer with the firm that designed the structure called the state and left a voicemail to report cracking in the concrete span. It went unheard for three days. ‘Hey Tom, this is Denney Pate with FIGG bridge engineers. Calling to, uh, share with you some information about the FIU pedestrian bridge and some cracking that’s been observed on the north end of the span, the pylon end of that span we moved this weekend,’ Pate said.

“‘Um, so, uh, we’ve taken a look at it and, uh, obviously some repairs or whatever will have to be done but from a safety perspective we don’t see that there’s any issue there so we’re not concerned about it from that perspective although obviously the cracking is not good and something’s going to have to be, ya know, done to repair that. At any rate, I wanted to chat with you about that because I suspect at some point that’s gonna get to your desk. So, uh, at any rate, call me back when you can. Thank you. Bye.’” http://hrld.us/2pm5AiT

WORLD WATCH — “Saudi Arabia Lightens Up, Building Entertainment Industry From Scratch,” by NYT’s Ben Hubbard in Riyadh: “[T]he kingdom is lightening up with comic book festivals, dance performances, concerts and monster truck rallies. The New Age music guru Yanni performed there in December, as did the American rapper Nelly (for an all-male audience). The Egyptian pop star Tamer Hosny is set to perform this month, although his fans will be barred from dancing and swaying. Cirque du Soleil will make its Saudi debut this year (with less racy outfits than it uses elsewhere). And international companies are signing deals to operate movie theaters across the country.” http://nyti.ms/2IueHGW

— “Exclusive: AIDS researcher favored to be next CDC chief,” by Dan Diamond and Brianna Ehley: “Robert Redfield, an HIV/AIDS expert at the University of Maryland Medical Center, is being vetted by the Trump administration to run the CDC, five individuals with knowledge of the situation tell POLITICO. Redfield emerged this week as the favored choice to replace former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned in late January after POLITICO reported she had traded tobacco, drug and food stocks while heading the public health agency.

“The Trump administration had been eyeing multiple candidates for the role. HHS did not respond to an immediate request for comment Friday evening. Redfield, a pioneering researcher who co-founded the Institute of Human Virology, also served on President George W. Bush’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS and was an adviser to the NIH during his administration.” http://politi.co/2Iyn8kA

****** A message from Business Roundtable: America’s trade policies should build on the benefits of tax and regulatory reform. As a result of tax reform and regulatory relief, America’s economy is on the path to strong, sustained economic growth. Yet, President Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum threaten to slow this economic momentum. The White House should support trade policies that continue to increase America’s competitiveness rather than making it harder for our businesses to grow and create jobs for American workers. See what CEOs are saying about the importance of international trade at trade.brt.org. ******

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:

— “Fat Leonard’s Crimes on the High Seas,” by Jesse Hyde in Rolling Stone: “He held claim to nearly the entire Pacific, a region spanning 48 million square miles, with a Naval presence of some 70 ships and 20,000 personnel.” http://rol.st/2pn2DyO

— “The Future of Leisure,” by Stuart Whatley in Democracy Journal: “It is past time we rediscover the lost art of leisure. Doing so, however, will also mean teaching people how to find fulfillment in their free time.” http://bit.ly/2Ix43PK (h/t ALDaily.com)

— “‘The Trains Are Slower Because They Slowed the Trains Down,’” by Aaron Gordon in Village Voice: “Internal MTA documents show everything we thought we knew about subway delays was wrong.” http://bit.ly/2tQa5ba

— “The Myth of Authenticity Is Killing Tex-Mex,” by Meghan McCarron in Eater: . “The standard narrative about Tex-Mex is that it’s an inauthentic, unartful, cheese-covered fusion, the kind of eating meant to be paired with unhealthy amounts of alcohol. There’s a lot of easy-melt cheese, the margaritas are made with a mix, the salsas come from a bottle. Those assumptions are entirely wrong. Ask Texas to choose between barbecue and Tex-Mex, and all but the most dedicated partisans will quail.” http://bit.ly/2HFFTkO (h/t TheBrowser.com)

— “Kidnapped Royalty Become Pawns in Iran’s Deadly Plot,” by Robert F. Worth in the N.Y. Times Magazine: “Qatar went to extreme lengths to secure the release of a captured hunting party — including a disastrous population transfer in Syria.” http://nyti.ms/2FPgMM6

— “Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?” by Leslie Jamison in the N.Y. Times Magazine: “As I emerged from alcoholism, I had to face down a terrifying question.” http://nyti.ms/2DztLPR

— “The Do-Nothing Discipline,” by Jeff Hauser in the Baffler: “How political science fell into the thrall of fundamentalist forecasting.” http://bit.ly/2FnBLJA

— “This Multibillion-Dollar Corporation Is Controlled by a Penniless Yoga Superstar,” by Ben Crair in Bloomberg Businessweek – per Longform.org’s description: “Baba Ramdev renounced the material world twenty-three years ago to become a Hindu ascetic. Now he’s on TV selling toothpaste, instant noodles, and toilet cleaners and the company he is believed to control is poised to become the biggest consumer goods seller in India.” https://bloom.bg/2FWSu6b

— “The Billionaire Philanthropist,” by Jacob Silverman in Longreads: “It’s American tradition for CEOs to stockpile their wealth, avoid taxes, and participate in the theater of giving. Will Jeff Bezos make it scale?” http://bit.ly/2piHiGp

— “For Women Behind The Camera, Sexual Harassment Is Part Of The Job,” by Claire Fallon and Emma Gray in HuffPost: “A HuffPost investigation found that women across crew positions experience an onslaught of lewd comments, gendered discrimination and even physical assault — and in some cases, it’s driving them out of the industry.” http://bit.ly/2tWPdPi

— “Setting Strategy In an Age of Uncertainty” – Freedman Consulting: A “plaque at the International Spy Museum in Washington [reads]: ‘President Roosevelt did not learn of Japan’s plans to attack Pearl Harbor until it was too late. This was partly the result of clashing between the Army and Navy over who would monitor diplomatic messages from Japan. Finally they compromised: they would alternate even- and odd-numbered days. As a result of this inefficient system, communications broke down and valuable information about Japan’s intentions slipped through the cracks.’” http://politi.co/2FPqqyn

— “Journeys in Trump World,” by Jason Wilson in WaPo: “I traveled to five Trump-branded properties in four countries. Here’s what I glimpsed about America’s future from being a tourist in the world of Trump.” http://wapo.st/2HFCXVk

— “The Lost Kids on the Line,” by Bronwen Dickey in Popular Mechanics: “The sport of slacklining lifts you above the earth and carries trouble from your mind. Sonya Iverson leads a band of practitioners who take the sport to children who need it, wherever they are, whoever they may be.” http://bit.ly/2DzsTuz

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute

BIRTHDAYS OF THE DAY: Carl Leubsdorf, Washington columnist for The Dallas Morning News, is 8-0. A fun fact about Carl: “Since starting to write a weekly column for The Dallas Morning News in 1981, and despite three heart operations, I’ve never missed a week. This week’s column will be No. 1927, leaving me only 705 to go to tie Cal Ripken’s consecutive games’ streak.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2FFuTaNMark Paustenbach, principal of M Public Affairs Group. A fun fact about Mark: “I once snuck Triumph the Insult Comic Dog into a debate hall. Sadly, he never insulted me.” Q&A: http://politi.co/2GByWCe

BIRTHDAYS: Tim Burger, research and comms consultant at Plumb Concepts and contributor to Town and Country Magazine, is 52. He celebrated by seeing “Springsteen on Broadway” on Thursday night (hat tips: Blain Rethmeier and Rob Saliterman) … Andrew Kovalcin, founder of Advanced Advocacy … Zach Lamb of Vice President Pence’s office … Michael Hayden, former NSA director and former CIA director, is 73 (h/t birthday boy Tim Burger) … Myrlie Evers-Williams, former national chairwoman of the NAACP, is 85 … Laurel Strategies CEO Alan H. Fleischmann (h/t Lisa Prince) … Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) is 61 … Hudson Deckard … Ellie Kaye … Harrell Kirstein, comms director for the American Bridge Trump War Room (h/t Andrew Bates) … The Washington Institute’s Scott Rogers … Emily Cohen, producer for ABC’s “World News Tonight” … AP alum Mike Glover … Angela Landers … Politico’s Connor Foxwell and Emma Vitaliano … Maureen Henehan … Lisette Morton … Jill Collins … Patrick Murphy of 3 Click Solutions … Lani Short, press secretary for Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) … Mary Schaper of API … Christina Saull … former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) is 63 …

… Facebook’s Erin Murray Manning … CNN’s Kate Sullivan … Ethan Porter, an assistant professor of media and public affairs at GW, is 33 … Meet The Press’ Sally Bronston … Trey Sherman … Mark Drajem, former Bloomberg News reporter now part of the federal comms team at the NRDC, is 51 (h/t Bill McQuillen) … Edelman’s Jennifer Small … Charlie Olson … James Flexner, VP at Avego Healthcare Capital … Ben Miller, VP of production at Convergence Media … Fred Anklam … Yahoo!’s Dylan Stableford, who is also Deadspin’s contributing tennis editor … Zachary Silver … Alex Ball … Allan Keiter … Judy Stecker, who is heading to HHS to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs in early April, is 35 (h/t AEI media team) … Mike Goscinski … Daniel Bellow … Troi Lughod … Tom Karrel (h/t Alice Lloyd) … MSNBC’s “Hardball” producer Tiffany Mullon … WSJ’s Anna Rafdal … Uber’s Annaliese Rosenthal … Angie Goff … Theresa Novick … Larry Farnsworth is 43 … Liz Doherty of Subject Matter … Rebecca Cooper … Martha Boneta … Ryan Vilmain … Erin Thornley … Geneva Jones.

THE SHOWS by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:

— NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) … Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) … Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Panel: José Díaz-Balart, Jonah Goldberg, Eliana Johnson and Amy Walter.

— ABC’s “This Week”: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Panel: Sara Fagen, Roland Martin, Matt Schlapp and Katrina vanden Heuvel.

— CBS’s “Face the Nation”: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) … Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) … Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) … Marc Short … South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-Wha. Panel: Dan Balz, Susan Davis and Mark Landler.

— CNN’s “State of the Union”: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) … Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Panel: Rick Santorum, Nina Turner, Jen Psaki and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.)

— “Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) … Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Panel: Karl Rove, Marie Harf, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Charles Lane.

— CNN’s “Reliable Sources”: Alicia Menendez and Jeff Greenfield … Ben Shapiro … plaintiff in Alex Jones/Infowars lawsuit Brennan Gilmore and his attorney Andre Mendrala … Rene Marsh

— Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: Founders Fund partner Peter Thiel … Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) … Newt Gingrich … Robert Jordan (“Desert Diplomat”). Panel: Ed Rollins and former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.).

— Fox News’ “MediaBuzz”: Anthony Scaramucci … Mollie Hemingway … Sarah Westwood … Juan Williams … Shelby Holliday … Philippe Reines … James Andrew Miller

— CNN’s “Inside Politics” with John King: Panel: Julie Pace, Manu Raju, Jeff Zeleny and Rachael Bade

— CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: Panel: Zanny Minton Beddoes, Richard Haass and David Miliband … panel: Anne Applebaum, Bill Browder and Luke Harding … opposition Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak

— Univision’s “Al Punto”: Mexican presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya … Mexican presidential candidate Margarita Zavala … activists Yarely and Aracely Duarte … former U.S. Amb. to Panama John D. Feeley … Costa Rican presidential candidate Carlos Alvarado … actress Martha Higareda

— C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), questioned by Kristina Peterson and Mike DeBonis … “Q&A”: author and Colorado College’s Tom Cronin (“Imagining a Great Republic”)

— MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) … Chris McDaniel … former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) … U.S. House candidate Marie Newman (D-Ill.) … Jonathan Swan … Sam Stein … Natasha Bertrand … Michael Steel … Kevin McLaughlin … Erica Werner … Geoff Bennett

— “The McLaughlin Group”: Moderator Tom Rogan with Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Clarence Page and Karen Tumulty

— Sirius XM’s “Politics Inside Out with Chris Frates” (9 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday and Monday): Indie Party founder Jonathan Jenkins and Daniel Lippman from a live taping in Austin at SXSW — Clips for Playbookers: Jenkins explains the Indie Party and whether cryptocurrencies can be trusted: https://goo.gl/Z5mec5https://goo.gl/q6pmyDLippman on whether a 3rd party has a chance and if major parties will use crypto: https://goo.gl/eoTmR3https://goo.gl/JjHvoV

— Washington Times’ “Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher or listen at MackOnPolitics.com): Jonah Goldberg)

****** A message from Business Roundtable: Continued economic growth depends on expanding – not restricting – international trade. Business Roundtable member companies collectively employ more than 16 million American workers. The ability to grow and create more jobs for the American people depends on a modern and competitive U.S. trade agenda that expands free and fair trade removes unfair barriers. Business Roundtable CEOs welcome the opportunity to work with the Trump Administration on trade policies that ensure a healthy, prosperous, and growing American economy for years to come. See what CEOs are saying about the importance of international trade at trade.brt.org. ******

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McCabe just made life tough for Comey and the special counsel

Following his termination late Friday night, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Federal abuses on Obama’s watch represent a growing blight on his legacy In the case of the FISA memos, transparency is national security MORE declared that he was “singled out” after “unrelenting” attacks by President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE and critics. McCabe’s objections are less than credible, given the virtually unprecedented recommendation of career officials to fire the one-time acting FBI director.

However, McCabe may have rectified his “singled out” status with his long statement criticizing his termination: In the middle of it is a line that could be viewed as incriminating fired FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Assessing Trump’s impeachment odds through a historic lens Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? MORE, not just in leaking sensitive information but also in lying to Congress.

McCabe is accused of misleading investigators about allegedly giving information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter about the investigation of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC ‘got scammed’ into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE and the Clinton family’s charitable foundation. McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to “share” that information to the media but did so with the knowledge of “the director.” The FBI director at the time was Comey.

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“I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe stated. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”

If the “interaction” means leaking the information, then McCabe’s statement would seem to directly contradict statements Comey made in a May 2017 congressional hearing. Asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or whether he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general clearly saw this “interaction” as problematic in seeking answers from McCabe. If the inspector general considered this to be a leak to the media, any approval by Comey would be highly significant. Comey already faces serious questions over his use of a Columbia University Law School professor to leak information to the media following his own termination as director.

In leaving the FBI last year, Comey improperly removed memos about the Russian investigation that he wrote concerning meetings with Trump. Since these memos discussed an ongoing FBI investigation and were written on an FBI computer, the bureau reportedly confirmed they were viewed as official documents subject to review and approval prior to any removal or disclosure.

Comey could have given the memos to the congressional oversight committees. Instead, he removed at least seven memos and gave at least four to his professor-friend to leak to the media. Four of the seven memos that Comey removed are now believed to be classified. Since he reportedly gave four memos to his friend to leak to the media, at least one of the leaked memos was likely classified.

Now, McCabe appears to be suggesting that Comey was consulted before the alleged leak to the media on the Clinton investigation. Many of us had speculated that it seemed unlikely McCabe would take such a step without consulting with Comey. Yet, Comey repeatedly stated that he had never leaked nor caused anyone to leak information to the media.

The timing for Comey could not be worse. He already has started selling tickets, for roughly $100 each, to attend the tour for his forthcoming book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” If he gave McCabe the green light for his “interaction,” the title could prove embarrassingly ironic.

If this was determined to be a leak with his approval, Comey likely would be labeled not just a leaker but a liar. Worse, his second-in-command just lost his pension after more than 20 years with the bureau, while Comey is about to cash in on a book and publicity tour potentially worth millions.

Comey also will be releasing his book around the same time as the inspector general’s report is expected to be made public. The inspector general reportedly will detail a number of irregularities under Comey’s watch. So the book could look more like a work of fiction if the inspector general finds that the FBI was a mess under Comey’s “leadership.”

McCabe’s termination is likely to only add to Comey’s problems. Four U.S. senators are calling for appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the Justice Department during the Clinton investigation. Moreover, there could be serious questions raised over the indictment of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for misleading investigators, which is the same allegation that McCabe faced before his termination. McCabe’s case could still be referred to prosecutors for possible indictment under the same provision used against Flynn.

The McCabe controversy could also make life tougher for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE. While McCabe lashed out at Trump in his statement, he may have just given Trump the long-sought cover to use his pardon power. If McCabe is not charged, Trump could cite that decision as the basis for pardoning Flynn, as a matter of equity and fairness.

More generally, the apparent conduct of both McCabe and Comey have fulfilled the narrative long advanced by Trump of a biased and unprincipled FBI investigation. Given Trump’s ill-advised inclination to fire Mueller in the past, these allegations of leaks and misrepresentations inside the FBI could rekindle Trump’s interest in forcing an end to the investigation that has dogged his administration for a year.

Trump would be unwise to take such action. Instead, McCabe’s firing should reinforce calls for an independent investigation with the maximum level of transparency. The same is true for the Russia investigation of the Trump campaign. This country is deeply divided over the allegations against Trump and his opponents. We will not overcome this chasm until we are satisfied that we have the full factual record from the Clinton and Russia investigations.

This is particularly true for the FBI, which will not be able to regain the trust of many Americans without making a clean break from scandal. That means total transparency, which runs against the bureau’s culture. Yet, without greater disclosure, the public will be left wondering if a sense of Comey’s “Higher Loyalty” dangerously blurred the lines between “Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

http://thehill.com

Russia expels 23 British diplomats in escalating spy dispute

Russia followed through with its move to expel 23 British diplomats on Saturday in response to an equivalent expulsion of Russian diplomats by the United Kingdom over the poisoning of a double agent.

“Our priority today is looking after our staff in Russia and assisting those that will return to the UK,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday reported by Reuters, as the diplomatic staff leaves Moscow. 

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The foreign office said that Britain’s National Security Council will meet to discuss further actions against Russia. The U.K., the U.S., Germany and France accused Russia this week of orchestrating the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a toxic nerve agent on British soil, leaving them critically ill.

“The onus remains on the Russian state to account for their actions and to comply with their international obligations,” the British Foreign Office said Saturday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the decision earlier this week to expel the Russian diplomats, who she said were spies for the Russian government. Russian officials quickly dismissed the accusations and vowed the nation wold take reciprocal actions. 

In an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Russia accused Britain of fabricating the “fairy tales” in an attempt to besmirch Russia.

http://thehill.com