Virginia Republicans are buzzing about a Wall Street Journal story that appears to put Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in the middle of the email scandal surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The timing, the story line and the characters – all perfect. Exactly what a political party facing an Election Day rout could hope for.
Their hopes are wildly misplaced.
The Journal’s Devlin Barrett reports that McAuliffe’s political action committee donated “$467,500 to the 2015 state Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, who is married to Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI.”
Why does this matter? Apparently because Andrew McCabe was promoted (long after his wife’s state Senate campaign ended) to the position of FBI deputy director, where he had an oversight role in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
McAuliffe, as we all know, is a long-time friend and ally of the Hillary and Bill Clinton. This summer, the FBI declined to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe gave money to Jill McCabe’s campaign in 2015.
Obviously, the local party thinks, there’s a quid pro quo to be found here – and perhaps other, more nefarious deeds.
So the Republican Party of Virginia filed a Freedom of Information request with McAuliffe’s PAC.
In a press release, RPV chairman John Whitbeck said while McAuliffe’s PAC isn’t a “public organization, we also call on Terry McAuliffe to release any and all emails to and from that organization related to Dr. McCabe’s campaign.”
Points to Whitbeck for trying. But he’s smart enough to know this is just a stunt that will get him nowhere.
Not to be outdone, McCabe’s 2015 opponent, Sen. Dick Black (R), issued his own press release calling for Andrew McCabe to resign his post as FBI deputy director.
“I am at a loss to see how the FBI could possibly allow Andrew McCabe to oversee the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s email server scandals,” Black said. “Mr. McCabe was clearly indebted to the Clinton Campaign because of the support given his wife.”
A point to Black for effort. But on substance? Try again, senator.
McAuliffe’s is known for his ability to raise money for Democratic candidates. But was McAuliffe looking to influence an FBI investigation into one of his old friends through the triple-bank-shot strategy of giving money to an FBI officials wife’s state Senate campaign many months before that FBI official was promoted to an oversight position in that investigation?
He was trying to win control of the Virginia Senate in 2015. Jill McCabe looked like a good candidate to take out Black. McAuliffe and the Democratic Party gave her ample resources to do so. She lost.
End of story.
The story Virginians – and the Clintons – should ponder is how, in that same 2015 election, McAuliffe gave enormous financial support to Dan Gecker, a Chesterfield County supervisor who years ago represented Kathleen Willey, one of the women who accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual assault.
McAuliffe knew about Gecker’s past. He backed him anyway, going so far as to make the unusual move of endorsing Gecker in the Democratic primary. McAuliffe wanted to win that Senate seat. The long-time Republican incumbent, John Watkins, was retiring. Republicans had nominated a relative newcomer, Glen Sturtevant, who was still in his first term on the Richmond School Board.
It seemed like the sort of contest where a Democratic pick-up might happen, if the right candidate, with sufficient resources, could win.
Gecker, like McCabe, lost.
Why retell this story?
Because it shows how misplaced the GOP buzz around the McCabe nugget really is.
McAuliffe has many skills. The ability to see the future is not among them.
Virginia Republicans looking to change the 2016 narrative should look somewhere else.
Norman Leahy is a political reporter for the American Media Institute and producer of the Score radio show.