Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director who would likely be a key witness if Donald Trump is ever prosecuted for obstructing the Russia investigation, was fired in March, just two days before he was set to retire with full benefits. Attorney general Jeff Sessions said he fired McCabe for his failure to speak with “candor” on “multiple occasions” but provided no supporting evidence or further context for the conclusion that McCabe deserved termination.
According to a GoFundMe page for the “Andrew McCabe Legal Defense Fund,” McCabe has since hired a top law firm to “gain clarity around the lasting impact his firing … will have on the pension and healthcare benefits he earned over his two decades of service to the FBI” and to help prepare for potential congressional testimony. The fund was launched last Thursday by “Friends of Andrew McCabe” with an initial goal of $150,000. It will be shutting down at 7 p.m. Monday having raised $551,141 as of the time of this post.
GoFundMe allows you to see each individual donation a campaign has received; there have been more than 13,000 donations to McCabe’s fund. Most of them are for small amounts, suggesting that support for McCabe has become a grass-roots cause for anti-Trump activists on social media. Indeed, the GoFundMe page was shared on Twitter by Rachel Maddow, though she did not encourage donations to it, as well as by various #resistance-oriented accounts.
It doesn’t seem like McCabe is in imminent financial peril. He hasn’t lost his full pension, been sued, or been accused of a crime. He made more than $150,000 a year at the FBI and, as Splinter News points out, is seemingly in a position to earn substantial income as an author and public speaker. He has a law degree, and there are traditionally a lot of law firms willing to hire former top federal officials at nice salaries. His wife is a practicing doctor.
McCabe’s GoFundMe campaign itself seems to have been bolstered by his resources and connections. A spokeswoman named Melissa Schwartz has been promoting the campaign on McCabe’s behalf and issued the Monday statement that it would be shutting down. Schwartz is a “strategic and crisis communications consultant” who works at a K Street firm called The Bromwich Group. The “founder and managing principal” of The Bromwich Group is Michael Bromwich, who, in his capacity as a lawyer employed by the firm of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, is McCabe’s lead attorney. In other words, the PR and lobbying firm* Andrew McCabe’s lawyer founded is helping promote the small-donor fundraising effort to pay Andrew McCabe’s lawyer. (The GoFundMe page says that “any funds that remain in the Legal Defense Fund” at the conclusion of any proceedings related to his firing “will be donated to charitable organizations of the McCabes’ choosing.”)
I asked Schwartz over email and by phone if the The Bromwich Group had set up McCabe’s GoFundMe page. She said she didn’t want to comment on specific tasks her company may have carried out for McCabe, but did send a statement explaining that both The Bromwich Group and Michael Bromwich’s law firm are part of the team McCabe has employed to provide a number of services ranging “from legal assistance to handling the hundreds of media requests and opportunities that have come his way.” She also said she could not identify who the “Friends of Andrew McCabe” are “at this time.”
Raising money for one’s legal defense is a perfectly fine thing to do. It’s not even an unprecedented move for a figure who Democrats believe is being unfairly persecuted in a situation involving a president and a special counsel. But while there are certainly reasons to believe that McCabe is being treated unfairly by the Trump administration, it’s hard to understand why the hypothetical legal bills of someone who has already managed to arrange top-shelf public relations and legal representation and likely has a promising and lucrative career ahead of him should be a high priority for small-donor progressive activism.
*Update, April 6: Schwartz disputes my characterization of The Bromwich Group as a firm that engages in lobbying, and separately told Law and Crime that the firm doesn’t employ registered lobbyists and does not engage in unofficial lobbying either. (My use of the term was based on The Bromwich Group’s assertions, on its website, that it provides “strategic advice” and “public affairs” consulting to organizations with business before the government, phrases that are often used by registered lobbyists and other entities that help clients exert influence in Washington, D.C . The site further explains that The Bromwich Group can conduct “stakeholder outreach” for clients and that it provides “advice and strategies for dealing with regulatory and enforcement agencies.”)