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1 big thing: Trump's FBI target steps down

Months of private and public pressure from the Trump administration paid off today, with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stepping down in advance of his scheduled retirement.

  • The public pressure: Trump has tweeted five times about McCabe over the past year, thrice in December.
  • The private pressure: AG Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of Trump — had been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, Axios' Jonathan Swan scooped last week.
  • "McCabe abruptly stepped down on Monday as the F.B.I.’s deputy director after months of withering criticism from President Trump, telling friends he felt pressure from [FBI Director Wray]," sources told the NYT's Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo.

Swan emails with today's Be Smart: "Substantively, I don't think it makes a big difference regarding Trump's exposure, especially on Russia. Rod Rosenstein is still there and so is Mueller. But Sessions is gradually bending the Justice Department in the direction Trump wants it to turn."

Intrigue: Today's talker comes from NBC's Carol Lee, who reports that Trump called McCabe after firing James Comey in 2017:

  • "Trump demanded to know why Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired... McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it..."
  • "The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015."
  • "McCabe replied: 'OK, sir.'"
  • "Trump then hung up the phone."

Behind the scenes by Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs, a preview of more to come:

  • "Trump erupted in anger [last week] while traveling to Davos after learning that Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned that it would be 'extraordinarily reckless' to release a classified memo written by House Republican staffers."
  • "Trump warned Sessions and others they need to excel at their jobs or go down as the worst in history," sources told Bloomberg.

Go deeper: Timeline — Trump's turbulent relationship with McCabe

2. What you missed

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down today. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

  1. The special guests for Trump's first State of the Union address range from the parents of teenage girls murdered by MS-13, to the first blind double amputee to reenlist in the Marine Corps after being wounded at war. The list.
  2. Russia has alleged that a new U.S. Treasury report naming and shaming Russian oligarchs is a "direct and obvious attempt to influence its upcoming elections. Dive in.
  3. House Appropriations chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will not seek re-election in 2018. Full list of retirees.
  4. The United Nations estimates that over 13 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are at risk of death due to a "mega-crisis" of political instability, armed conflict, hunger, and disease. Report.
  5. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Cleveland Indians will remove the controversial Chief Wahoo logo from their uniforms beginning in 2019. Their statement.
  6. Wynn Resorts shares have sunk nearly 19% in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations against founder and CEO Steve Wynn. That represents a paper loss of $462.55 million for him. Chart.
3. 1 great quote

Photo: Alessandro Trovati / AP

“The thing is, everyone asks me if I’m afraid after so many crashes. Do I take my foot off the gas pedal? ... You try to manage risk as much as you want... But at the end of the day, it’s a dangerous sport.”
— Lindsey Vonn, in a great AP profile