You can debate whether acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe did the right thing when he authorized a counterintelligence investigation into whether President Donald Trump was acting at the behest of Russians. Or whether he was rightly admonished by the inspector general for his conversations about the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Or even whether he is exaggerating in order to boost sales for his memoir of his time in the Trump administration.
These are all things on which reasonable people can disagree.
Here’s something on which no one should disagree: Donald Trump’s bullying of McCabe’s wife, Jill, is unseemly, unpresidential and just plain awful.
Jill McCabe, an emergency room pediatrician, ran for the state Senate as a Democrat against a Republican named Dick Black in 2015. McCabe lost – although she, like a number of Democratic candidates in Virginia in that election, received contributions from then-Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (McAuliffe’s super PAC donated almost $500,000 to McCabe’s campaign.)
Those two facts – 1) McCabe’s wife ran as a Democrat and 2) She got a major contribution from McAuliffe – stuck in Trump’s craw, particularly after it became clear that Andrew McCabe wasn’t going to be an ally in his war against the alleged “deep state” within the Justice Department.
Starting in the summer of 2017, Trump blasted out dozens of tweets suggesting that Jill McCabe’s candidacy – and McAuliffe’s donation – were somehow evidence that Andrew McCabe took it easy on Clinton and worked against Trump.
“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,” Trump tweeted in July 2017.
In December of that year, Trump tweeted this: “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?”
In an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday, McCabe revealed new details about how early Trump’s bullying of his wife actually began – and how nasty the President of the United States actually was. Here’s the key exchange between McCabe and CBS’ Scott Pelley about a call the newly-installed acting FBI director received from the President of the United States:
Andrew McCabe (quoting Trump): “What was it like when your wife lost her race for state Senate? It must have been really tough to lose.” And I said, “Well, it’s tough to lose anything. But my wife has refocused her efforts on her career.” And he then said, “Ask her what it was like to lose. It must be tough to be a loser.”
Scott Pelley: What did you think?
Andrew McCabe: No man wants to hear anyone call his wife a loser, most of all me. My wife is a wonderful, brilliant, dedicated physician who tried to help her community. So she is no loser. It was just bullying. So rather than get into an argument with the President of the United States, we, I said, “OK, sir.” And we hung up and ended the call.
That is some major silverback gorilla stuff right there, right?
There’s no reason for the President of the United States to call the acting FBI director’s wife a loser – in a campaign for state legislature that ended two years prior! – to his face unless Trump was trying to assert dominance. That is an I-am-the-alpha move. Plain and simple.
It is also bullying. Can you imagine your boss calling you up and asking you to ask your wife what is was like to lose? It’s your boss, so you can’t exactly tell him where he can go shove it unless you don’t want to work there anymore. Which, of course, your boss knows. Which is why he asked the question. To make you decide whether defending your wife’s honor is worth your job. And to make very clear who the top dog is. Him.
That’s bad, right? Now imagine if the boss is the President of the United States. And the underling is the most powerful law enforcement official in the country. Even worse, given the power dynamic – and the stakes.
Trump responded with a tweet on Tuesday:
“I never said anything bad about Andrew McCabe’s wife other than she (they) should not have taken large amounts of campaign money from a Crooked Hillary source when Clinton was under investigation by the FBI. I never called his wife a loser to him (another McCabe made up lie)!”
Which, maybe! But if past is prologue – and it is – Trump absolutely called Jill McCabe a “loser.” Why would McCabe lie at this point?
This is, of course, who Trump is. He has bullied and bragged his way through life – and all the way to the White House. There’s absolutely no reason to think he would have stopped this sort of boorish behavior when he became President.
But that doesn’t mean we should normalize it. Presidents shouldn’t act this way. Hell, no one should act this way.