Trump Took Aim at FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's Wife, Asked Him How he Voted in Oval Office Meeting

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies before the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Lawyers and former U.S. government officials have taken exception to a report that President Donald Trump questioned the political allegiances of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and his wife during an Oval Office meeting last May.

The meeting came shortly after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey on May 9. Current and former U.S. officials told The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump asked McCabe, a top, unappointed law enforcement official around the beginning of the meeting who he voted for in the 2016 election.

McCabe said he didn't vote. Trump then complained about a donation that the lawman's wife received during her run for Senate in 2015.

When Dr. Jill McCabe ran for the Senate seat in Virginia she received a $467,500 donation from the political action committee of then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. She also received $207,788 from Virginia's Democratic Party.

In a series of tweets last month Trump complained about these donations and questioned McCabe's integrity as he oversees the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.

How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2017

The Department of Justice is designed to work independently of political influence in what and how it investigates. Asking an official about their political allegiances is out of bounds, said Susan Hennessey, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and former lawyer in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency, in response to Trump's reported questioning of McCabe.

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"Trump cannot plead ignorance or naiveté here. He has been warned again and again and again of how grotesquely improper it is," Hennessey wrote on Twitter. "He has been told about the obligations of his office. He just doesn't care."

Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee last June that in a rare private meeting between him and the president last January that Trump told him: "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty."

"Apparently FBI personnel are only allowed to have political opinions if they support Trump," said Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security advisor for strategic communications during the Obama administration, in a tweet Tuesday in response to the report.

Apparently FBI personnel are only allowed to have political opinions if they support Trump.

— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) January 24, 2018

"What part of 'you don't ask civil servants these questions' is the President not capable of understanding?" asked Bradley Moss, a ‏national security lawyer, on Twitter.

Former White House lawyers have said they are concerned by multiple instances of the weakening of the separation between the White House and Department of Justice staff.

Trump has dismissed the Russia investigation that McCabe is overseeing as "fake news" and a "witch hunt" the Democrats concocted to explain why Clinton lost the 2016 election.

Early this week a story by Axios, citing three sources, reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressured new FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe at Trump's urging but that Wray threatened to resign if he was forced to act.

Wray has been making changes to senior leadership at the bureau in recent months after becoming head of the bureau in August, replacing select staff who were close to his predecessor Comey.

McCabe is expected to retire from the FBI in March.

"FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits," Trump tweeted in late December. "90 days to go?!!!"

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