Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is having his moment in the sun, trying to sell a book making explosive allegations — but he undermines the believability of any of it by his outlandishly embittered descriptions of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
As a New York Times review of McCabe’s new book describes it, Sessions comes across as “openly racist,” with (now using McCabe’s own words) “trouble focusing” while “lacking basic knowledge.” In sum, reviewer Dwight Garner says that “the portrait of Sessions is of a man for whom merely ordering lunch seems to be above the timberline of his intellect and curiosity.”
This is sheer calumny and utterly unbelievable. On the racism charge — based not on alleged remarks about black Americans but about Irish-American FBI agents — my colleague James Gagliano has it right: “It defies credulity that any modern AG would ever utter such blatantly racist remarks around anyone — much less the acting director of the FBI.”
It especially defies credulity considering Sessions’ own background of being blocked for a judgeship, and almost blocked from becoming attorney general, because of now-widely-discredited allegations of racism. Even if Sessions looked at the world through a racial lens, which he doesn’t, he’s not stupid enough to go around expressing it.
That supposed stupidity described by McCabe, though, is even more absurd. Allow, please, some directly personal observations. I live in Mobile, where Sessions lives. I’ve covered him closely for local and national publications for 21 years. I’ve had numerous in-depth conversations with the man, both on the record and off. The off-the-record ones, including several airport lunches when we found ourselves on the same flights between Mobile and the nation’s capital, were especially illuminating, because they involved Sessions at his most unguarded. They also showed him at his best and most thoughtful.
Because they were off the record, I would not divulge (nor do I specifically remember) the exact substance of what we discussed, but I certainly can relay impressions.
When he didn’t need to worry about parsing every word on the record, Sessions did not become less admirable but more so. The less he relied on talking points, the more keenly intelligent he sounded. He would discuss copious details of whatever we spoke about, whether it was national issues, occurrences in Mobile, or news about mutual acquaintances. He cares deeply about issues and people, and he clearly does his homework with vigor.
The idea that he would ignore key briefings, fail to understand basic Justice Department jurisdictional questions, or, Lord forbid, make sweeping generalizations about various ethnicities, is ludicrous.
But there’s more: These descriptions of Sessions come from a man, McCabe, not only with an axe to grind against Sessions (who fired him), but who also has been identified by the independent Justice Department inspector general as having lied three times under oath. Sessions is far more credible than McCabe.
I reached out to a trusted observer who worked with Sessions for the first time at the Justice Department — thus, someone without longstanding ties to Sessions and no evident “dog in the hunt.” Because of the obviously complicated cross-currents at the department, the source quite reasonably asked for anonymity.
“The idea of Sessions ever saying a disparaging thing about anyone in law enforcement is laughable” said the source. “The idea that he confided this idea, that no one else has ever heard him say, to Andy McCabe? A guy he never liked or trusted? I don’t think so. … Andy should have picked something more believable to lie about.”