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Trump tweets on Andrew McCabe taints Justice Department decision, says former official

Lisa Monaco, a former assistant attorney general and Homeland Security adviser, says we can't judge the merits of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to fire Andrew McCabe because the Justice Department’s inspector general report has not been made public, which she called “highly unusual.” Monaco joins Judy Woodruff to give her impressions of McCabe and the president’s tweets.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We get reaction now from Lisa Monaco, who was the homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former President Barack Obama. She has also led the Justice Department's National Security Division, and served for three years as chief of staff and counsel to Robert Mueller when he was director of the FBI.

    Lisa Monaco, thank you for joining us.

    Is there any doubt in your mind that President Trump and Attorney General Sessions were within their rights to — when they fired Andrew McCabe?

  • Lisa Monaco:

    The attorney general was within his right to dismiss a member of the Justice Department.

    But we can't really judge the merits of that decision because we don't have the inspector general report. I will tell you, based on my nearly 15 years of experience in the Justice Department and being part of literally dozens of and reviewing dozens of inspector general reports, it is really highly unusual to not have the report itself made public when such a public action as happened late Friday night takes place.

    And so we have to ask ourselves, why is that the case? Why was there a rush to take this action 26 hours before Andy McCabe was due to retire? Why was the report and the investigation that was focused on Andy McCabe separated out from the broader investigation and accelerated from the broader investigation of the conduct of the FBI on the Hillary Clinton e-mail case?

    So, all of these are, I think, very significant questions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as I understand it, that's the attorney general's decision to make.

    You worked with Andrew McCabe in your time at the FBI. What was his reputation then?

  • Lisa Monaco:

    McCabe had and has a very good reputation. I worked with him when I was at the Justice Department, when I was at the FBI and when I was in the White House.

    He, in my experience, is a man of very high integrity. He has devoted his life to public service. And he was literally on the other end of the phone at all hours of the day and night when it came to terrorist attacks, terrorist threats.

    This is a man who has devoted his life to public service. He is a career civil servant. And, you know, this is an issue that I think we really do have to wonder why was the timing done in this way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I also want to, of course, ask you about the Mueller investigation. You worked very closely with Bob Mueller when he ran, was head of the FBI.

    When Andrew McCabe — when this firing took place over the weekend, he put out a statement saying he thought the president had done this in connection with the Russia investigation.

    As all of us know, the president's been very critical of the Mueller investigation. Based on everything you know, is the president — does the president have a point when he says this is an investigation that should have never gotten under way in the first place?

  • Lisa Monaco:

    Well, I don't think there's any merit to that contention. This is an investigation that was begun after the president fired James Comey.

    This was an investigation that — and the special counsel, of course, was appointed by Rod Rosenstein, President Trump's deputy attorney general, and a career prosecutor himself. So, you know, none of that really stands up.

    And I think, Judy, what this shows is really a pattern of an effort to distract from the special counsel's investigation and the results that he and his team are putting forward. And it also shows something else, which I think is very damaging to the institutions of the Department of Justice and FBI, which is the president not observing the longtime norm of having a wall between law enforcement and Justice Department decisions both on cases and in personnel matters, as was the case with the action against Andy McCabe on Friday night, not observing that wall between the White House and the Justice Department.

    And the reason you want to observe that wall is so there is no question, no taint or cloud over decisions made at the Justice Department. And, unfortunately, that's now what we have. The minute the president started tweeting and publicly calling for Andy McCabe's ouster, there's now a taint over any Justice Department decision that follows from that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One other thing.

    The original intent of this investigation, as we understand it, was to look into whether there was a connection between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the 2016 campaign. How far can Robert Mueller stray from that original purpose in this investigation?

  • Lisa Monaco:

    Well, I think, if you look at the charge given to the special counsel, as laid down by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general and the acting attorney general for purposes of this matter, because Attorney General Sessions is, of course, recused, the charge, the original charge to special counsel Mueller and his team is to investigate the matters as you set forth, but also matters and issues that arise from that investigation.

    So, we also have the statement of Rod Rosenstein of just a few weeks ago recently where he said he doesn't find any fault, or words to that effect, with how special counsel Mueller is conducting himself.

    And, of course, any expansion of the probe would have to be approved by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Lisa Monaco, so much to talk about here. We thank you very much for joining us today.

  • Lisa Monaco:

    Thanks for having me.

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