NBC’s Guthrie Asks McCabe Seven Times If Trump Is ‘National Security Threat’

During the first half of her live 12-minute interview with fired Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Tuesday’s Today show, NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie managed to ask a version of the same question seven different times as she repeatedly fretted over whether President Trump was a “national security threat” to the United States.

After introducing McCabe and announcing the title of his new book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, Guthrie somewhat skeptically wondered: “I notice the title of your book, ‘The Threat,’ and you say the FBI is protecting America ‘in the age of terror and Trump.’ Did you mean to relate those two or equate those two or say both are threats?” 

In response, McCabe doubled down: “Absolutely. I think the job of protecting America and upholding the Constitution has become tougher for the men and women of the FBI, and more broadly, for men and women across the intelligence services, in our Justice Department – ” Guthrie bluntly interrupted: “Do you think the President is a threat, is that what that means?”

McCabe argued: “I think it’s entirely possible. I think that’s one of the reasons why we opened the case against him.”

 

 

Minutes later, after establishing that McCabe was responsible for initiating an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the President, Guthrie pressed: “Is that tantamount to saying you felt there was reason to suspect that he was a national security threat? Is that what that means?” The disgraced official asserted: “It is saying that we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security. In this case, that the President himself might, in fact, be a threat to the United States’ national security.”

Guthrie eagerly followed up: “And in particular, was it your suspicion, and the reason you opened this investigation, that you thought the President might actually be working on behalf of Russia?” McCabe didn’t make that direct connection: “...the President, in our view, had gone to extreme measures to potentially impact, negatively impact, possibly turn off our investigation of Russian meddling into the election and Russian coordination with his campaign.”

Continuing the line questioning, the host repeated: “But when you’re opening this particular kind of investigation, counterintelligence, did you suspect the president might actually be working for Russia?” McCabe replied: “We thought that might be possible, yes.”

Guthrie was still not satisfied, she seemed to want McCabe to prosecute the case on national television: “What were the predicate facts? Lay them out here. What were the facts that suggested the President may be a national security threat and may, in fact, be working on behalf of a foreign adversary, Russia?”

The only supposed evidence McCabe mentioned was suspicion:

Okay, so Savannah, we have to go back to the investigation of potential collusion between the campaign and Russia, right? So through the fall, these are topics we’ve been looking at. During that time, the President has been publicly undermining the investigative efforts. He’s talking about it as a witch hunt, he’s talking about it as a hoax. So it’s clear to us that he’s not happy with what we’re doing. Also during that time, the President approaches the director of the FBI and asks him to stop investigating Michael Flynn, a part of our investigation into Russian interference, he asks him to turn off that investigation.

Guthrie challenged: “Why isn’t that just the normal obstruction of justice criminal inquiry? Which is substantial enough on its own. What takes it to this next level where there’s a suspicion that he’s working for a foreign government? I mean, this is extraordinary.”

After giving McCabe multiple opportunities to paint Trump as a “national security threat” and Russian agent, later in the exchange, she actually grilled him about his credibility problems:

> You were fired from the FBI, and you were fired after the Inspector General of the Department of Justice found that you had displayed a lack of candor, which I think is FBI speak for not telling the truth, about a story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal and whether or not you authorized a leak of material that was in that article. Why should anyone believe you when you were fired from FBI for lying?  

> It was quite detailed and states you displayed this lack of candor on four different occasions. I mean, that’s not just, “Well, we didn’t understand, I’m not sure, I was distracted.” That’s four separate occasions in which the Inspector General says you were not forthcoming, you did not tell the truth.

> Do you have a political bias against the President? Because he suggests, by virtue of the fact your wife running as a Democrat, receiving PAC money from an organization that was essentially controlled by the governor of Virginia, a close ally of the Clintons. Do you have a political bias?

In attempt to dismiss the circumstances of his firing, McCabe suggested their was a conspiracy against him: “I believe very strongly I was fired because of the steps we’ve just discussed. I was fired because I opened a case against the President of the United States.” Guthrie wasn’t buying it: “I read the Inspector General’s report. That suggests the Inspector General is in on it and firing you – basically making up a pretext to fire you. Is that what you’re suggesting?”

Beyond questioning McCabe’s possible bias, Guthrie also noted:

It has subsequently come to light that someone you worked very close with, Lisa Page, who was your lawyer, essentially, and someone else who worked on the case from the Department of Justice were having a romantic affair, an extramarital affair. It also came out in text messages that they had disparaged the President, that they had bashed him. It demonstrated a clear bias against the President. You oversaw that investigation. Did you ever see that kind of thing among Lisa Page and Peter Strzok?  

McCabe promptly denied: “Not once. Not from Lisa Page, not from Pete Strzok, and not from anybody else on that team.”

Wrapping up the interview, Guthrie lobbed a softball: “Do you feel you’ll be vindicated by the Mueller report?” Even then, McCabe dodged: “I anxiously await the results of Director Mueller’s work and I hope that we all get to see that. I think all Americans have a right to see the results of that work.”

While Guthrie fully detailed McCabe being fired for dishonesty, on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley hailed the former FBI official for having a “sterling 21-year career” at the Bureau.

Overall, the NBC interview with McCabe was decent, despite giving him a media platform to hurl accusations at the President.

Here are excerpts of Guthrie’s lengthy February 19 sit-down with McCabe:

7:32 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, now to the man who’s been in the headlines a lot recently, former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He chronicles his experience working in the Trump administration in his new book. It’s called The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. Director McCabe, good morning. It’s good to see you.

ANDREW MCCABE: Good morning, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: We might as well start right there. I notice the title of your book, “The Threat,” and you say the FBI is protecting America “in the age of terror and Trump.” Did you mean to relate those two or equate those two or say both are threats?

MCCABE: Absolutely. I think the job of protecting America and upholding the Constitution has become tougher for the men and women of the FBI, and more broadly, for men and women across the intelligence services, in our Justice Department –  

GUTHRIE: Do you think the President is a threat, is that what that means?

MCCABE: I think it’s entirely possible. I think that’s one of the reasons why we opened the case against him.

GUTHRIE: I want to talk about that in a moment. The President has already, on Twitter yesterday, accused you of “illegal and treasonous acts.” Your response?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Some Republican lawmakers are saying they’d like to subpoena you, they’d like to see you under oath saying some of the things you say in this book. Would you be willing to do that?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about your time as acting FBI director. It happened because Jim Comey was fired by the President. And in the days after that, it’s our understanding that an investigation was opened into the president, too. One was a criminal investigation into whether he obstructed justice by firing Comey. And secondly, and significantly, that there was a counterintelligence investigation opened into President Trump. Did you open the investigation, the counterintelligence investigation into the President?

MCCABE: So a few things to point out there, Savannah. Both purposes are part of the same investigation. This is something I talk about extensively in the book. And the reason is, I want Americans to understand how the FBI makes these decisions on when to open cases and who to investigate. It’s not because we do it because we like it or we think it’s fun or we like – don’t like a person or are supporting one political direction or the other. It’s because we have facts and information in our possession that gives rise to an articulable basis to believe a threat to national security or a federal crime may have been committed.

GUTHRIE: Well, let’s talk about it. Did you order a counterintelligence investigation into the President?

MCCABE: I did.

GUTHRIE: Is that tantamount to saying you felt there was reason to suspect that he was a national security threat? Is that what that means?

MCCABE: It is saying that we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security. In this case, that the President himself might, in fact, be a threat to the United States’ national security.

GUTHRIE: And in particular, was it your suspicion, and the reason you opened this investigation, that you thought the President might actually be working on behalf of Russia?

MCCABE: We had a number of very concerning things that we were considering at the time. One of them was the fact that the President, in our view, had gone to extreme measures to potentially impact, negatively impact, possibly turn off our investigation of Russian meddling into the election and Russian coordination with his campaign.

GUTHRIE: So that goes to his potential motive. But when you’re opening this particular kind of investigation, counterintelligence, did you suspect the president might actually be working for Russia?

MCCABE: We thought that might be possible, yes. We thought it might be possible. Now, remember, Savannah, we’re at the beginning of an investigation. We don’t draw conclusions. We simply look at the facts and the information we have and begin investigations that we think are appropriate.

GUTHRIE: But as you point out in your book, the FBI does not start any investigation willy-nilly. What were the predicate facts? Lay them out here. What were the facts that suggested the President may be a national security threat and may, in fact, be working on behalf of a foreign adversary, Russia?

MCCABE: Okay, so Savannah, we have to go back to the investigation of potential collusion between the campaign and Russia, right? So through the fall, these are topics we’ve been looking at. During that time, the President has been publicly undermining the investigative efforts. He’s talking about it as a witch hunt, he’s talking about it as a hoax. So it’s clear to us that he’s not happy with what we’re doing. Also during that time, the President approaches the director of the FBI and asks him to stop investigating Michael Flynn, a part of our investigation into Russian interference, he asks him to turn off that investigation. The Director –  

GUTHRIE: Why isn’t that just the normal obstruction of justice criminal inquiry? Which is substantial enough on its own. What takes it to this next level where there’s a suspicion that he’s working for a foreign government? I mean, this is extraordinary.

(...)

GUTHRIE: I know you and other members of your team briefed the so-called Gang of Eight, these are the leaders of Congress, in the days after Comey was fired about the Russia investigation. So it would have been the Majority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Democratic counterparts. Did you tell them that you had  opened a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Did you tell Congress?

MCCABE: And I told Congress what we had done.

GUTHRIE: Did anyone object?

MCCABE: That’s the important part here Savannah, no one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts.

GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about some of the more explosive revelations that are in this book, they have to do with Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General. You write in the book that Rosenstein, I believe on more than one occasion you say, suggested wearing a wire, that he himself would wear a wire into the Oval Office to record the President.

MCCABE: Savannah, actually I don’t include that in my book. I made the decision not to put those specific words in the book. I don’t discuss the 25th Amendment, the allegations about the 25th Amendment in the book for a really important reason. It’s become quite a distraction, a distraction from the points that I am trying to make.

GUTHRIE: If it happened, it’s extraordinary. I thought you did. I believe I read that you said that you even went to the Counsel Jim Baker, the General Counsel of the FBI, and said, “Hey, Rosenstein wants to do this.” And he said, “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

MCCABE: I’ve been asked about that in interviews. These are things that happened, these are conversations we had,  and so, of course I’m answering those questions truthfully.

GUTHRIE: So you’re saying that Rosenstein did this, suggested wearing a wire?

MCCABE: Yes.

GUTHRIE: Now, there have been news reports that suggest people thought, who were in the room, he was joking. Like, “Hey, what do you want me to do, wear a wire?” Was it a joke?  

MCCABE: No, it wasn’t a joke. He was deadly serious.

(...)

GUTHRIE: I should mention the Department of Justice, and Rosenstein in particular, have said that these accounts are factually inaccurate. And that brings me, actually, to an issue that you have. You were fired from the FBI, and you were fired after the Inspector General of the Department of Justice found that you had displayed a lack of candor, which I think is FBI speak for not telling the truth, about a story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal and whether or not you authorized a leak of material that was in that article. Why should anyone believe you when you were fired from FBI for lying?  

MCCABE: Two reasons. Before the President started publicly attacking me, I enjoyed a 21-year career in the FBI at every level an agent can serve – can serve within the FBI, and without absolutely not a single blemish on that career. Second reason, I believe very strongly I was fired because of the steps we’ve just discussed. I was fired because I opened a case against the President of the United States.

GUTHRIE: I read the Inspector General’s report. That suggests the Inspector General is in on it and firing you – basically making up a pretext to fire you. Is that what you’re suggesting?

(...)

GUTHRIE: It was quite detailed and states you displayed this lack of candor on four different occasions. I mean, that’s not just, “Well, we didn’t understand, I’m not sure, I was distracted.” That’s four separate occasions in which the Inspector General says you were not forthcoming, you did not tell the truth.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about the President. You – in some way it’s almost personal. He’s tweeted about you, I think, more than 30 times. In one of the occasions you – one of the conversations that you had that you relay in the book, you say he referred to your wife and her losing campaign and called her a loser. What would you say to him right now if you had the opportunity?

MCCABE: Well, I don’t expect I’ll get that opportunity, but I can’t tell you, Savannah, how horrific it’s been to have to endure the threats, the taunts, the bullying of the President of the United States in such a public way.

(...)

GUTHRIE: Do you have a political bias against the President? Because he suggests, by virtue of the fact your wife running as a Democrat, receiving PAC money from an organization that was essentially controlled by the governor of Virginia, a close ally of the Clintons. Do you have a political bias?

MCCABE: Absolutely not. I did my job. I worked on the facts and the law that were in front of us at the time. There’s absolutely no connection whatsoever with my wife’s political activity and the decisions that I made at work. And I think that’s been borne out by an in-depth investigation.

GUTHRIE: You oversaw the Clinton e-mail investigation.

MCCABE: I did.

GUTHRIE: It has subsequently come to light that someone you worked very close with, Lisa Page, who was your lawyer, essentially, and someone else who worked on the case from the Department of Justice were having a romantic affair, an extramarital affair. It also came out in text messages that they had disparaged the President, that they had bashed him. It demonstrated a clear bias against the President. You oversaw that investigation. Did you ever see that kind of thing among Lisa Page and Peter Strzok?  

MCCABE: Not once. Not from Lisa Page, not from Pete Strzok, and not from anybody else on that team.

GUTHRIE: One of their text messages mentions a “meeting in Andy’s office.” Did any kind of conversation like that take place in your hearing?

MCCABE: I don’t recall the meeting or the conversation that they relate in their private texts. It’s one – a question I’ve been asked many times. We had many, many meetings between myself and those two and many others on the investigative team. So I don’t recall the conversation they’re referring to. I can tell you this, Lisa Page and Pete Strzok are good people who served this country well. They made some poor decisions in their private lives and in terms of the communications they exchanged with each other. That’s brought incredible grief and scrutiny on the FBI. I’m sure they regret that. But good people make bad decisions every day.

GUTHRIE: I’ve gotta go, but do you feel you’ll be vindicated by the Mueller report?

MCCABE: I anxiously await the results of Director Mueller’s work and I hope that we all get to see that. I think all Americans have a right to see the results of that work.

GUTHRIE: Director Andrew McCabe, thank you for your time, appreciate it.

MCCABE: Thank you.

GUTHRIE: And again, the book is called The Threat.

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