FBI Director Christopher Wray stood up to the God-King, and Senate Democrats stood down on the government shutdown … for now. (More)

“Wray should have a fresh start with his own team”

That was Klanmaster General Jeff Sessons’ excuse for pressing Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. But the real reason was something quite different, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has adamantly urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to make a “fresh start” with his core team, including replacing deputy director and Trump bête noire Andrew McCabe, according to a senior administration source.
The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into how the FBI under former director James Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016. There are also ongoing leak investigations, per the same source.

But even without all of these investigations, Sessions believes “Wray should have a fresh start with his own team,” according to the senior administration source.

Not surprisingly, the God-King thinks McCabe is a Hillary Clinton/Deep State agent:

On July 26, Trump tweeted: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got…big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”

But Director Wray told the God-King to back off, Swan reported this morning:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions – at the public urging of President Donald Trump – has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

Wray’s resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm. The White House – understandably gun-shy after the Comey debacle – didn’t want that scene, so McCabe remains.

Lawfare’s Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes credit Wray’s integrity … and the God-King’s feeblenessLawfare’s Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes credit Wray’s integrity … and the God-King’s feebleness:

First, we should underscore what a difficult situation Wray is in. As Jack wrote in a related context, Wray is in the extraordinary position of “dealing with a president who is attacking the integrity of the Justice Department and the FBI in a truly unprecedented fashion at a time when many of the president’s associates, and probably the president himself, are under investigation by the Justice Department and FBI.”

As the leader of the FBI, Wray must maintain his credibility with both the White House and, more importantly, the FBI workforce. He is also supervised in an immediate sense by an attorney general who is evidently trying to placate the president’s anger at him for having recused himself from the Russia investigation – and who is doing so by facilitating the president’s demands for a house-cleaning at the bureau. In other words, Wray is wedged, on the one side, between a president who is demanding McCabe’s scalp and an attorney general who is pushing the knife into Wray’s hand, and on the other side by an FBI workforce that is demanding he defend the institution.
Second, it is clear from this episode that Wray has chosen this path—that is, that his ultimate commitment lies with the FBI and the preservation of its institutional integrity. This is exceptionally good news. It is also unsurprising. Wray, after all, is an old-time Justice Department hand who was prepared to resign under President George W. Bush during the warrantless wiretapping controversy.
But third, we should nonetheless recognize the fortitude and grit he showed in reportedly telling the attorney general – and through him the president of the United States – to lay off. […] But Wray apparently did just this, and he is still the FBI director. As McGahn’s comment to Sessions acknowledges, this episode reveals that Trump has much more to lose than Wray does from Wray resigning—at least for now. And it underscores one more time – again, for now – the FBI’s independence in the face of truly unprecedented attacks on its integrity.

Fourth, while the situation is fluid and Trump’s temperament makes the future impossible to predict, the reality in which Wray holds a lot of cards may be a stable one. Trump has already fired one FBI director for standing up to him and defending the institutional integrity of the bureau. He did not materially improve his position by doing so. Indeed, since it resulted in the appointment of Robert Mueller and Wray himself, doing so almost certainly worsened his position. McGahn seems to be acknowledging in the Axios story that Trump cannot afford to do this again. […] Ironically, President Trump has handed Wray this leverage by firing his predecessor and by acting so inappropriately toward the FBI since Wray became its director.

Simply, Wray has refused to let the God-King turn the FBI into his praetorian guard. That’s a big win for the rule of law.

“CHIP is now off the table because it’s been extended for a period of six years”

Yes, many progressives are furious that Senate Democrats agreed to end the federal government shutdown without a DACA deal. But they gave up nothing to gain something important, as The Daily Beast’s Joy-Ann Reid explains:

Monday’s deal took the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, off the table. On Thursday, South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds made an interesting admission to NBC’s Chuck Todd about the program that Republicans had cynically allowed to run out of money nearly three months ago. “Under the current proposal,” Rounds said, “CHIP is now off the table because it’s been extended for a period of six years. And so then what is the next bargaining chip that brings Democrats to the table?” That’s exactly where the GOP finds itself now. As one blogger at the Daily Kos cleverly put it: Dems free 8.9M child hostages from kidnappers; 690K adults still being held as negotiations continue.

Without CHIP in the mix, as Eric Boehlert pointed out on Twitter, the next round of negotiations will be “clean” from a messaging point of view in that it will be all about the DREAMers. No longer can McConnell, Paul Ryan, the Trump administration, and other Republicans claim that Democrats are harming “our” children for the sake of “illegal immigrants”—the outrageous and sub-rosa racist frame adopted by the GOP during this past week’s debacle.[Emphasis added]

I italicized that Daily Kos quote because, if this were a bank robbery hostage-taking story, that would be the headline from yesterday’s action.

Of course, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could renege on his promise of a bipartisan DACA deal. But the political fallout of that betrayal would be all on Republicans, Reid explains:

McConnell is now on the hook to follow through on the deal he made. Sure, it would defy his demonstrated proclivity for hyper-partisanship and plain old chicanery to do so, but unlike past instances like health care or the tax bill or the stolen Supreme Court seat where he could lock Democrats out of the room with impunity due to the 50-plus-1 vote threshold available to him, in this case the 60-vote rule applies. If McConnell goes back on his word, the consequences would be a second shutdown, with Democrats having demonstrated a willingness to let it happen.

And with activists already steaming mad at the Democratic moderates, the next shutdown would almost certainly be long and brutal, with Democrats risking primaries if they didn’t stick it out.

Moreover, polls consistently showed that most voters – nearly half – blamed Donald Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown, while less than 1 in 3 blamed Democrats. Even Trump, per the Washington Post, apparently realized that he was getting blamed (he loves Twitter so surely he saw #TrumpShutdown trending), and was unsure of what to do about it.

Narrowing the issues in a negotiation is almost always a good strategy. Now if we could only narrow the players, as a Talking Points Memo commenter cleverly explained:

There’s the Dem position, the GOP position, the Freedom Caucus position, Trump’s current position, Trump’s position five minutes ago, Trump’s position five minutes from now, MillKell’s position, JaVanka’s position, Don Jr’s position, and Tiffany’s position. Perhaps some consolidation is in order before talks resume.

All of those cooks are still in the kitchen, but perhaps Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) can use her talking stick to keep them from spoiling the broth. A squirrel can always dream, right?


Photo Credit: Saul Loeb (AFP/Getty Images)


Good day and good nuts