Ron Klain is a longtime Democratic operative. Among other important posts, he served as chief of staff to two vice presidents, Al Gore and Joe Biden.
Klain is a personable guy. He was liked and respected by conservatives I know who dealt with him during the Clinton years.
These days, though, Klain is so committed to the anti-Trump resistance that guilt and innocence don’t matter to him anymore, at least not in disputes involving fellow anti-Trumpers. He makes that clear in a piece for the Washington Post called “I stand with Andrew McCabe.”
McCabe is the former deputy director of the FBI. Jeff Sessions fired him last week after the inspector general of Department of Justice found he was less than honest in statements he made to investigators, and after career DOJ employees then recommended his discharge.
Even Trump-hating Benjamin Wittes conceded it would be premature to conclude that McCabe’s discharge was improper. Indeed, Wittes went further, arguing that the offense McCabe was found to have committed warrants firing and that the DOJ process that produced his firing “carries a presumption of fairness and independence.”
Why, then, does Ron Klain stand with McCabe? It boils down to the fact that Klain hates Trump.
Here’s what he says:
[W]hat if McCabe did do something wrong in authorizing FBI officials to talk to a reporter, or while answering questions from investigators looking into the matter?. . .[T]he fact [is] that almost every person who stands up to Trump will, themselves, be imperfect, be vulnerable to investigation, have made mistakes — that is to say, human.
Klain is hiding the ball. McCabe’s problem isn’t that he’s imperfect and/or vulnerable to investigation, and it isn’t only that he authorized FBI officials to talk to a reporter. It appears that McCabe was dishonest with investigators, an offense that has led to criminal charges against former associates of Donald Trump and should lead to criminal charges against McCabe if the evidence supports them.
In these instances, we need to ask not whether an individual did something wrong; the question is whether there is any reason to believe that is why Trump took action. In McCabe’s case, the answer is obvious.
What’s obvious is (1) Trump did not take action against McCabe, Jeff Sessions did and (2) Sessions’ action was supported by findings and recommendations of career DOJ employees with no ax to grind — a process that, as Wittes says, “carries a presumption of fairness of independence.”
In any case, why don’t we need to ask whether McCabe did something wrong? Why should we “stand” with wrongdoers just because we suspect they have been called out due to political antagonism?
Klain says we should do so because otherwise FBI personnel investigating Trump will receive a “chilling message”: If you do your job you will face unpleasant consequences. But this will only be the message if FBI agents who don’t commit fireable offenses are fired. That hasn’t happened if McCabe did what the inspector general says he did.
Moreover, Klain is too blinded by his hatred of Trump to consider what message would be sent by not firing a top level FBI man who doesn’t tell the truth to federal investigators. What message is sent by “standing by” such a man.
Using Klain’s logic, one could make a stronger case for standing by Michael Flynn than for standing by McCabe. Klain views McCabe as powerless in the face of Trump’s tweets.
Flynn was powerless when Sally Yates and Peter Strzok went after him, hoping to induce him to make a false statement. He was powerless when Robert Mueller, with something approaching unlimited power and resources, caused him to spend large amounts of money on legal fees, and targeted his son.
Some people I know are sure that Flynn was targeted because of his allegiance to Trump and his attacks on Hillary Clinton (at the GOP convention, Flynn ill-advisedly seemed to lead “lock her up” chants) — as sure as Klain is that McCabe’s firing is politically motivated. I strongly suspect they are right.
By Klain’s logic, we should stand with Flynn regardless of whether he made false statements to the FBI. I say we should stand with Flynn only if he did not make false statements.
When the merits don’t matter — when the only questions that need to be asked are whose side is one on, who benefits, and who has the superior claim to being “powerless” — our polity is in serious trouble.