Donald Trump thought he could insulate himself from his Russia scandal by firing FBI Director James Comey and replacing him with a handpicked puppet. That backfired in the sense that it’s going to result in obstruction of justice charges against Trump and a number of his underlings, and in the sense that it prompted a number of Americans to conclude Trump had something to hide and was therefore guilty. Now it’s backfired on a whole new, and frankly surprising, level.
Trump picked Christopher Wray as his new FBI Director with the clear hope that Wray would sabotage the Trump-Russia investigation on his behalf. Up to now it’s been somewhat difficult to parse precisely where Wray has truly stood, beyond the fact that the investigation is still pushing forward in full force. Along the way Trump has convinced himself that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who happens to be a Democrat, is somehow a secret plant for Hillary Clinton. Trump and his allies have worked hard to force McCabe out. But that never happened. Now we know why.
When Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Wray to help force McCabe out, Wray outright refused. He went even further, threatening to resign if they tried to pressure him into it, according to a new Axios report (link). In other words, Trump nominated Wray specifically to do his bidding, but Wray instead stabbed Trump in the back by siding with the law. Trump and Sessions concluded that it wasn’t worth having to go through the embarrassment and scandal of replacing yet another FBI Director, and so they backed off, leaving both Wray and McCabe on the job. That backing off is actually the real story here.
We already know that Donald Trump, besieged by scandals and crippled by a historically low approval rating, lacks the political muscle to try to fire anyone else involved with the Trump-Russia investigation (including Robert Mueller). Now we know that Trump knows he lacks the muscle. This also reveals that, when it comes to hand picking people to protect him in the Trump-Russia scandal, Trump has guessed wrong yet again. He also believed Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney Dana Boente, and for that matter James Comey were all going to protect him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report