FBI ex-deputy blamed oth­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCARBOROUG­H

A Jus­tice De­part­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port is the driv­ing force for pos­si­ble crim­i­nal charges against for­mer FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe, as his at­tor­neys and the de­part­ment square off in a le­gal and me­dia show­down.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral’s 20-month-old find­ings sparked an on­go­ing Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It said Mr. McCabe lied to fel­low agents and cast blame on col­leagues for his or­ches­trated press leak.

His le­gal team lost an ap­peal to Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jef­frey Rosen to avert crim­i­nal charges that may come out of the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice for the District of Columbia. De­fense at­tor­ney Michael R. Bromwich floated an un­con­firmed ru­mor that the grand jury re­fused to in­dict.

Mean­time, Mr. McCabe adamantly re­jects the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s con­clu­sions and is su­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

What did Mr. McCabe do that re­sulted in his fir­ing in March 2018, a few days short of full re­tire­ment, and prompted U.S. At­tor­ney Jessie K. Liu to weigh crim­i­nal charges?

Here is what In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael Horowitz wrote:

On Aug. 12, 2016, Mr. McCabe re­ceived a phone call from the prin­ci­pal as­so­ciate deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral in the Obama Jus­tice De­part­ment. The in­spec­tor gen­eral didn’t name the of­fi­cial. Matthew Ax­el­rod, who left Jus­tice shortly af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump took of­fice, at the time was as­so­ciate deputy un­der Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sally Q. Yates.

The call was heated. Mr. Ax­el­rod wanted to know why agents in New York dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion were ag­gres­sively in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Clinton Foun­da­tion, a fam­ily char­ity tak­ing in mil­lions of dol­lars from for­eign sources. The Demo­cratic nom­i­nee was Hillary Clinton.

In Oc­to­ber, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported on huge cam­paign do­na­tions from a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee con­trolled by then-Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is closely tied to the Clin­tons. The ben­e­fi­ciary was the cam­paign of Mr. McCabe’s wife, who made an un­suc­cess­ful run for state Se­nate in 2015.

Wash­ing­ton’s chat­ter­ing class, upon hear­ing the McCabe story, started ques­tion­ing FBI ob­jec­tiv­ity. In July 2016, FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey called Mrs. Clinton’s email han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion “ex­tremely care­less” but not il­le­gal.

Mr. McCabe launched his own se­cre­tive me­dia cam­paign to counter the bad press. He au­tho­rized his coun­sel, Lisa Page, and a pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cial to con­tact Devlin Bar­rett, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­porter who wrote the Clinton cash story.

“Are you in with WSJ now,” Mr. McCabe texted to Ms. Page on Oct. 27.

On a se­cond call with Mr. Bar­rett, Ms. Page filled in the re­porter on the Aug. 12 McCabe phone call with Mr. Ax­el­rod.

“We’re done,” she texted Mr. McCabe.

She told Mr. Bar­rett of the McCabe push­back to show that the deputy was the hon­est, un­bi­ased G-man the pub­lic de­manded. On Oct. 30, a Jour­nal story ap­peared with the head­line “FBI Jus­tice Feud in Clinton Probe.”

The story said, in part: “Ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the probes, on Aug. 12, a se­nior Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial called Mr. McCabe to voice his dis­plea­sure at find­ing that New York FBI agents were still openly pur­su­ing the Clinton Foun­da­tion probe dur­ing the elec­tion sea­son. Mr. McCabe said agents still had the author­ity to pur­sue the is­sue as long as they didn’t use overt meth­ods re­quir­ing Jus­tice De­part­ment ap­provals.

“‘Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly pred­i­cated in­ves­ti­ga­tion?’ Mr. McCabe asked, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion. Af­ter a pause, the of­fi­cial replied ‘Of course not,’ th­ese peo­ple said.”

The McCabe me­dia strat­egy not only dis­closed the in­ter­nal phone call but also marked the first time the gov­ern­ment was con­firm­ing an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the bil­lion-dol­lar Clinton Foun­da­tion.

Mr. McCabe went fur­ther than au­tho­riz­ing the leak. The day the story was pub­lished, he tele­phoned FBI ex­ec­u­tives at the Wash­ing­ton and New York field of­fices and blamed his col­leagues for the Oct. 30 story.

“Get this house in or­der,” Mr. McCabe said. He later told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he didn’t re­call mak­ing the calls.

The next day, Mr. Comey con­vened a high-level meet­ing to ad­dress press leaks. Mr. McCabe later told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he in­formed the FBI chief about the leaks and Mr. Comey ap­proved. Mr. Comey said no such con­ver­sa­tion took place.

Mr. McCabe “def­i­nitely did not tell me that he au­tho­rized,” Mr. Comey said. “It wasn’t me, boss,” Mr. Comey quoted his No. 2 as say­ing.

Mr. McCabe also at­tempted to cast blame in the cir­cle of man­agers around him and said the fact that Ms. Page was talk­ing to Mr. Bar­rett was no se­cret.

In sum, Mr. McCabe at­tempted to blame Mr. Comey, his field of­fice man­agers and col­leagues around him.

May 2017 was a mo­men­tous month for FBI head­quar­ters: Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein named Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel for the Trump-Rus­sia elec­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and Mr. McCabe, now act­ing di­rec­tor, opened a probe tar­get­ing the pres­i­dent as a pos­si­ble Rus­sian agent. Mr. Mueller’s fi­nal re­port, re­leased in March, showed no ev­i­dence that Mr. Trump was an agent.

In the back­ground, FBI in­ter­nal af­fairs al­ready was in­ves­ti­gat­ing press leaks and added the Oct. 30 Jour­nal story to the mix. Dur­ing the May tur­moil, the in­quiry took two FBI in­ter­nal af­fairs agents to Mr. McCabe’s sev­enth-floor of­fice at head­quar­ters.

The agents de­ter­mined that the act­ing FBI di­rec­tor’s story didn’t add up and that it was best to move the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion out­side the FBI chain of com­mand to the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, Mr. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz fin­ished his re­port in Fe­bru­ary 2018. A month later, with new FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher A. Wray in place, Mr. McCabe was fired based on the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s find­ings. The re­port was re­leased to the pub­lic in April.

IG: How Mr. McCabe was un­truth­ful

Mr. Horowitz de­picted Mr. McCabe as a ma­nip­u­la­tive bu­reau­crat will­ing to lie about his boss and those around him. Ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tor gen­eral, he: Told Mr. Comey on Oct. 31, 2016, that he didn’t ap­prove the leak. De­nied to FBI agents on May 9, 2017, un­der oath that he had au­tho­rized the Oc­to­ber 2016 leak. Told the in­spec­tor gen­eral in July 28,

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A me­dia strat­egy by for­mer FBI deputy di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe dis­closed an in­ter­nal phone call but also marked the first time the gov­ern­ment was con­firm­ing an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the bil­lion-dol­lar Clinton Foun­da­tion.

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