When news broke tonight of FBI General Counsel James Baker being reassigned to a new position after Republicans smeared his reputation, gasps of alarm went up across Washington, D.C.
The response of even the most sober observers was that the maneuver was yet another political retaliation by Republicans against a high FBI official who can corroborate fired FBI director James Comey’s June testimony against the president.
In fact, Comey himself weighed in tonight on Twitter with a candid assessment of the Stalin-esque political tactic.
Sadly, we are now at a point in our political life when anyone can be attacked for partisan gain. James Baker, who is stepping down as FBI General Counsel, served our country incredibly well for 25 years & deserves better. He is what we should all want our public servants to be.
— James Comey (@Comey) December 23, 2017
The political hit job against Baker tonight had two steps.
1.) House Intelligence Republicans, headed by Trump-Russia lackey Rep. Devin Nunes of California, leaked to Politico that Baker had spoken to David Corn, the Mother Jones reporter who first broke the Russian dossier story, in which British intelligence expert Christopher Steele unearthed salacious details linking Trump and his inner circle to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Not an iota of the dossier has yet been disproven — in fact most of it has already been borne out as fact.
2.) Trump-appointed FBI director Christopher A. Wray reassigned Baker to an undisclosed new role, effectively defanging his powers within the bureau and allowing Republicans to cast aspersions that his demotion stems from “bias” in the dossier investigation, which it in no way does.
Corn has stated explicitly that Baker was not his source for the dossier story.
He could simply have been offering procedural insight about the FBI, a very standard thing for a member of FBI leadership to do with investigative members America’s free press.
The background to all of this intrigue stems from the fact that President Trump appointed Wray as FBI director after firing James Comey for not quashing the investigation into now-convicted former national security advisor Mike Flynn.
Comey later testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump asked him to pledge his total loyalty to him and drop the Flynn investigation.
Comey kept copious notes of his interactions with the president and shared his experiences with a number of unnamed top FBI officials.
In their witch hunt to discredit the FBI and Special Prosecutor Mueller’s accelerating investigation into Trump-Russia collusion and obstruction of justice, the House Intelligence Committee called deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe to testify this week.
Instead of proving Republican accusations of political bias in favor of Hillary Clinton — whose political chances Comey had in fact ended — McCabe demolished their whole line of inquiry by corroborating that his former boss had informed him of Trump’s unethical requests at the time.
Some argue that whenever a new FBI director takes over the bureau, he appoints a new counsel and Baker’s transfer is therefore standard.
However, as Comey’s tweet reflects, there is nothing normal about Donald Trump and his Russia-backed Republicans.
They know Mueller, armed with truckloads of FBI evidence, is zeroing in on the big fish.
Cornered, they will unload the dirtiest of tactics to try to wriggle out of the dire consequences toward which they are inexorably hurtling.
But Comey — and all the rest of us — are watching closely. The more they try to cover up the truth, the guiltier they become.