- President Donald Trump reportedly asked the deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe who he voted for during an Oval Office meeting last year.
- The question came after McCabe became the FBI’s acting director following James Comey’s firing in May. McCabe told Trump he did not vote in the 2016 election.
- The meeting between Trump and McCabe resembled the one-on-one time that the president spent with Comey after his inauguration, during which Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and requested that the FBI back off of his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who the FBI was investigating.
- During congressional testimony Comey gave last June, he said he did not oblige the president’s request for loyalty.
- The revelations could add another wrinkle to the federal investigation of ties between Trump associates and Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Following former FBI director James Comey’s ouster in May, President Donald Trump reportedly met with then-acting director Andrew McCabe and asked him who he voted for during the 2016 US presidential election, current and former officials cited by The Washington Post and The New York Times said in reports published on Tuesday.
McCabe, who reportedly said he did not vote in the election that year, found the question to be “disturbing,” according to one former official. At a separate meeting, Trump told McCabe he planned to visit FBI headquarters, but McCabe talked him out of it, according to The Times, citing the negative impact that Comey’s firing had on the agents there.
Trump and McCabe later met again in the Oval Office, where the president interviewed McCabe for the role of FBI director, though The Post notes that Trump had no intention to hire McCabe for the job, due in part to his anger over McCabe’s wife’s failed run for Senate in Virginia.
Trump accused Dr. Jill McCabe, who ran as a Democrat, of taking donations from Hillary Clinton. The campaign donations in question actually came from the Virginia Democratic Party and a super PAC operated by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is a Clinton supporter. Jill McCabe received no donations from Clinton herself.
Hallmarks of the Trump-Comey meeting
The conversation between Trump and McCabe loosely resembled the one-on-one time the president spent with James Comey shortly after taking office. He summoned Comey to the White House for a private dinner, during which he asked Comey for his loyalty.
Comey, who at the time was leading the Russia investigation, later said he was baffled by the request, but said he did not oblige.
Comey said Trump also asked him to “let go” of the bureau’s investigation of his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
During congressional testimony last year, Comey said he recorded memos of the private meetings with Trump out of concern for the nature of the encounters.
Railing against law and order
Though Trump ran his 2016 presidential campaign on a “law and order” platform, he has repeatedly castigated top law-enforcement officials since taking office.
The interactions between McCabe and Trump, just like those previous encounters with Comey, are also part of a broader effort in which Trump has apparently sought to wrangle top law-enforcement officials who have proximity to the Russia investigation.
During his first year as president, Trump publicly rankled Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe. He taunted McCabe on social media, and scolded White House general counsel Don McGahn for not intervening in the investigation.
More recently, Sessions has pressured the Trump-appointed FBI director Christopher Wray to remove McCabe. Political observers have speculated that Sessions was acting on Trump’s wishes to shake up the FBI. Wray reportedly threatened to resign over that.
Some of Trump’s allies in Congress and in the media have joined in the president’s calls for a counter investigation. Those demands grew louder after it was revealed that an agent who was ousted from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had exchanged more than 50,000 text messages with an FBI lawyer.
Some of those messages expressed strong opposition to Trump.
A new wrinkle for Robert Mueller
The totality of Trump’s public and private engagement with top officials at the FBI and Justice Department has prompted Mueller to look into whether Trump obstructed justice, a matter that could spell trouble for the president.
According to a Washington Post report published on Tuesday, Trump’s attorneys are negotiating terms for a possible interview between the president and Mueller, during which the special counsel is expected to seek information about the events that led up to Comey’s firing and Michael Flynn’s resignation.
Trump has not been formally accused of a crime and he has insisted he committed no wrongdoing.
But his sustained public airing of grievances against the Russia probe and his reported encounters with McCabe, Comey, Sessions, and others have called into question his broader motives surrounding the Russia probe, which he has previously described as a “witch hunt,” and a “cloud” over his presidency.