I would not want to be Jeff Sessions.
The embattled Attorney General had a difficult choice. There has been months and months of talk from the media and from the President himself about getting rid of Sessions because he won’t do Trump’s bidding and fire certain people. One of those people is Robert Mueller, the other is Andrew McCabe.
McCabe, as of last night, was fired two days before he could retire with a full pension. His crime? Well, we don’t quite know. What we do know is that McCabe’s behavior surrounding recent investigations is, at best, suspect. We also know that he has spent a lifetime in public service. There is a lot of good to McCabe’s name, but the bad in this case does stick out.
Sessions had to make a choice. Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior when it came to firing people this week had to set Sessions on edge. Does Sessions want to keep his job? Of course he does. He busted his ass to get there. So, he did what he thought he could get away with in order to keep it: He sacrificed McCabe to the Altar of Trump.
McCabe died so that Sessions could live.
As of this writing, I imagine we’re no more than 24-48 hours away from a Maggie Haberman or Axios scoop that Trump presented Sessions with the ultimatum: “McCabe’s job, or yours.”
McCabe, I don’t think, has much of a legal leg to stand on if he wants to challenge this firing. Politico agrees.
If McCabe wants to challenge the decision, his options are limited. Most federal civil service workers who believe they’re being subjected to excessive punishment can protest to an obscure agency called the Merit Systems Protection Board and then to court, but for decades Congress has given the FBI and its management more leeway.
“There’s no statutory basis to go to court,” said Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project.
While the usual civil service avenues are closed to McCabe, a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington is a possibility, lawyers said, but would probably require him to argue that his firing departed from standard practice in a way so egregious that it violated his constitutional rights to due process.
If McCabe does file a lawsuit, he seems certain to argue that his repeated taunting by Trump put Sessions under political pressure to carry out the firing, whether or not it was warranted, lawyers say.
The White House continued to provide fodder for those arguments on Thursday by trashing McCabe even as he showed up at the Justice Department in the afternoon to plead his case.
However, Republican strategist Liz Mair does bring up a fantastic point:
So, presumably McCabe is going to sue. And presumably in the course of that suit, some pretty interesting disclosure will occur. This seems like a dumb move by Team Trump.
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) March 17, 2018
There would, indeed, be one hell of a disclosure if this went to court. What would discovery look like here? Part of me thinks it might not be as good for McCabe as he’d like to think.
McCabe: “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.”
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) March 17, 2018
You see, he is kinda whitewashing over his flaws here. He was a serial leaker of information to the public. He then lied about leaking. To the FBI. That’s kind of a big deal. I think discovery in court might not look that great for Trump OR McCabe at this point.
However, it all comes down to Jeff Sessions. He got the recommendation from the Office of Professional Integrity, and he pulled the trigger. Less than 48 hours away from retirement, and he fired McCabe. That looks very, very petty.
At least Sessions gets to keep his job for another three months.