- REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
- The Department of Justice’s inspector general released the findings of an internal investigation into Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.
- The Office of the Inspector General found at least four instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” when discussing his decision to authorize disclosures to the media about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
- The report concluded that “McCabe’s decision to confirm the existence of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation through an anonymously sourced quote … was clearly not within the public interest exception.”
The Department of Justice inspector general released on Friday its findings of an internal investigation into Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.
McCabe was forced out of the FBI earlier this year as the inspector general was putting together the report, which centers on his approval of disclosures to the media in October 2016 related to the bureau’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, concluded in Friday’s report that McCabe was not forthcoming during his office’s review.
When Horowitz informed the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility about his findings last month, it recommended Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire McCabe, which Sessions did. McCabe’s ouster came two days before he was set to retire.
President Donald Trump, who leveled a string of scathing and public attacks before and after McCabe’s firing, weighed in on the report shortly after it was released Friday.
“DOJ just issued the McCabe report – which is a total disaster,” Trump tweeted. “He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey – McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers who have been concerned that Trump will use the OIG’s report to bolster his attempts to discredit the Russia investigation pointed out that it centers on McCabe and is not connected Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading that inquiry.
DOJ internal watchdog: McCabe ‘lacked candor’ in at least 4 instances
The Wall Street Journal article at the center of the OIG’s inquiry into McCabe was published on October 30, 2016, two days after James 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 Lisa 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.
In one instance, the report said, McCabe led Comey to believe, after the article was published, that he had not authorized the disclosures to The Journal and did not know who did.
McCabe made similar statements when internal FBI investigators questioned him about the disclosures on May 9, the report said.
A little over two months later, according to the report, McCabe told the OIG under oath that he was not aware Page had been authorized to speak to reporters about the Clinton Foundation investigation and that he could not say where Page was or what she was doing in the days before The Journal published the article.
Lastly, the report said McCabe contradicted his previous statements while testifying before the OIG on November 29 when he acknowledged he had authorized the media disclosures.
According to the report, he “stated that he told Comey on October 31, 2016, that he had authorized the disclosure” to The Journal and denied telling FBI investigators on May 9 that he had not authorized a disclosure to The Journal about his phone call with the principal assistant deputy attorney general, details of which were included in the article.
The inspector general also found that during his November 29 testimony, McCabe lacked candor when he described the manner in which he had been questioned by the internal investigators on May 9.
“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.
McCabe stepped down as deputy director in January after FBI Director Christopher Wray briefed him on the impending report about his conduct.
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.
The inspector general also found a discrepancy in descriptions by two officials – one of them McCabe – of an instance in which McCabe is said to have discussed recusing himself from the Clinton Foundation investigation.
The report cites testimony by the “New York Assistant Director In Charge” and an email he sent to himself in which McCabe indicated to him and an FBI executive assistant director that he would recuse himself from the investigation and told the two men he “may make a more formal decision at a later time.”
The report says the assistant director later testified to the OIG that McCabe “couched it as like, hey, this is not final … I don’t know, I think he says he still has to talk about it.”
The assistant director said he clarified with McCabe that he would begin reporting to the executive assistant director regarding the investigation.
But according to the OIG’s report, McCabe told the internal watchdog that he did not recall such a conversation.
“I suppose it’s possible that I may have referred to the concept if that was being discussed generally at the time,” McCabe said, per the report. “But I would not have said to [NY-ADIC], like, I’m thinking about recusing.”