- The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office has sent a criminal referral regarding Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, to the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC.
- The inspector general’s office released a report last week saying McCabe “lacked candor” when discussing his decision to authorize disclosures to the media about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
- The referral doesn’t mean McCabe will be charged with a crime, and experts said the IG’s decision to make the referral is part of a routine process.
The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has sent a criminal referral regarding Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, to the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, CNN reported Thursday.
The OIG released a report last week describing how McCabe “lacked candor” in several instances when discussing his decision to authorize disclosures to the media about the FBI’s investigations into Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
The report was the culmination of a monthslong investigation into McCabe’s conduct, mostly around the 2016 US election.
McCabe was forced out of the bureau in January amid the investigation.
After the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, concluded that McCabe was not forthcoming when testifying to internal investigators about his decisions leading up to the election, the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire McCabe, which he did last month.
Sessions said in his statement at the time that “both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news med and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”
On Wednesday, 11 House Republicans sent a letter to the Justice Department and the FBI calling for a criminal investigation into McCabe, Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI General Counsel Dana Boente, and two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
But a criminal referral from the OIG holds far more weight, as the group comprises nonpartisan investigators.
Legal experts said Thursday that if the US attorney’s office in Washington were to open a criminal investigation into McCabe and he were charged with a crime, the charge would most likely be lying to the FBI.
The inspector general’s office declined to comment.
Michael Bromwich, McCabe’s attorney, said in a statement to Business Insider: “Although we believe the referral is unjustified, the standard for an IG referral is very low. We have already met with staff members from the US attorney’s office. We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the administration, the US attorney’s office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute.”
DOJ watchdog finds McCabe made decisions ‘designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership’
The Wall Street Journal article at the center of the OIG’s inquiry into McCabe was published on October 30, 2016, two days after Comey, the FBI director at the time, announced in a letter to Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
The article was a detailed account of internal strife within the top ranks of the DOJ about how to proceed after FBI agents investigating Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman, discovered 650,000 emails on his laptop that could have been sent to or received from Clinton’s private email server.
The reporter who wrote The Journal’s article, Devlin Barrett, was in touch with two top FBI officials on the phone two days before the story broke, according to text messages released in February.
The officials were Page, an FBI lawyer who often worked with McCabe, and Michael Kortan, an FBI spokesman. The OIG report refers to Page and Kortan as “Special Counsel” and “then-Assistant Director for Public Affairs.”
While law-enforcement officials often speak to the press on background to provide more complete details about a story, they are prohibited from disclosing information about ongoing investigations.
The inspector general found that McCabe’s authorization of disclosures to the media regarding the Clinton Foundation investigation “effectively confirmed the existence” of the inquiry, something Comey “had previously refused to do.”
The report also listed at least four instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” when discussing the disclosures while he was under oath.
“We concluded that McCabe’s decision to confirm the existence of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation through an anonymously sourced quote, recounting the content of a phone call with a senior Department official in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership, was clearly not within the public interest exception,” the inspector general’s report said.
The deputy director’s ouster followed a string of public attacks leveled by President Donald Trump, accusing him of putting his thumb on the scale in Clinton’s favor.
Trump’s attacks were based on information in a separate Journal article published one week before the one on October 30 and written by Barrett focusing on an unsuccessful 2015 run for a Virginia Senate seat by McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe.
The Journal reported on October 24, 2016, that her campaign received $675,000 in donations from the Virginia Democratic Party and Common Good VA, the super PAC run by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter.
According to the inspector general’s report, Barrett emailed Kortan and the Office of Public Affairs about a follow-up story he was working on, saying he was told McCabe gave instructions on how to proceed with the Clinton Foundation investigation that summer, “given that it was the height of election season and the FBI did not want to make a lot of overt moves that could be seen as going after [Clinton] or drawing attention to the probe.”
When Barrett asked the office to comment on the accuracy of the description, McCabe instructed Page to provide information to Barrett for the follow-up story, which resulted in the October 30 article.