- DOJ’s internal watchdog to criticize former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
- McCabe authorized leaks to the media, according to new reports
- The former deputy director also reportedly misled watchdog investigators about the media disclosures
- McCabe stepped down from his position in January
The Department of Justice’s internal watchdog will criticize former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for authorizing leaks to the media and giving misleading statements to investigators about doing so, according to two new reports.
McCabe, 49, authorized FBI officials to speak to the media for articles prior to the 2016 election, including one about an ongoing investigation into the Clinton Foundation, according to a report being prepared by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
The FBI No. 2 also misled watchdog investigators when they initially asked about the media disclosures, according to The Washington Post.
THE WASHINGTON POST STORY:
“Report said to fault FBI’s former No. 2 for approving improper media disclosure, misleading inspector general
The Justice Department inspector general is preparing a damaging report on former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, alleging he was responsible for approving an improper media disclosure, two people familiar with the matter said. One of the people said McCabe will also be accused of misleading investigators about his actions.
The report is a part of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s broad review of the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
During that work, inspector general’s investigators found that McCabe had authorized the disclosure of information to the Wall Street Journal for an October 2016 story that examined feuding inside the FBI and Justice Department around the handling of a separate investigation into Clinton’s family foundation, two people familiar with the case said.
Those probing the matter believe that McCabe, who stepped down in January, misled them when they initially inquired about the subject, though one person familiar with the forthcoming report said McCabe disputes that he intentionally misled investigators.
It is unclear how McCabe is said to have misled investigators. The inspector general’s findings on the media disclosure were first reported by the New York Times.
Through a representative, McCabe declined to comment. A spokesman for the inspector general also declined to comment.
Horowitz’s report is almost certain to be used by President Trump, who has railed against leaks and made McCabe a particular target of his ire in recent months. McCabe, 49, briefly served as acting FBI director after President Trump fired James B. Comey from the job, and much like the man he succeeded, McCabe soon became a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI, Clinton and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
The 2016 Wall Street Journal report came just as the FBI had reopened the Clinton email investigation on the eve of the presidential election — a matter that was separate from the Clinton Foundation case but had parallels in the way it was fraught with politics.
The Journal’s story was notable for the level of detail it contained about internal law enforcement debates, and its revelation of specific information about an ongoing criminal case was considered by the inspector general to be particularly problematic. It presents McCabe as a complicated figure — one who at times is seen by those lower in the bureau as standing in the way of the Clinton Foundation investigation, though he also seems to stand up to Justice Department leaders.
The Journal reported that McCabe retorted to a Justice Department official upset to learn of steps the FBI had taken in the Clinton Foundation investigation, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” That would contradict any attempt by Trump or the GOP to claim that he was favoring the Democratic presidential candidate.
The Journal’s story was written by Devlin Barrett, now a reporter at The Washington Post. Spokesmen for the Journal did not return an email message. Recently released text messages from an FBI agent and FBI lawyer involved in the Clinton email case show that two days before the story was published, the lawyer, Lisa Page, and the FBI’s top spokesman, Michael Kortan, were on the phone with Barrett for an extended conversation.
Page worked in the FBI general counsel’s office and with McCabe, and she was briefly detailed to Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, and Page’s lawyer did not respond to messages Thursday night.
Kortan, who has since left the FBI, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Background briefings with high-level government officials are common in Washington, particularly when reporters already have information and agencies hope to fill in the gaps on limited, and potentially misleading, facts. But law enforcement officials are generally instructed not to reveal ongoing criminal investigations.
While the inspector general uncovered allegations specific to McCabe during his broader look at the Clinton email case, his report on the FBI official is not likely to be the only one the work produces. Horowitz is also examining broad allegations of misconduct involving Comey, the public statement he made recommending that the case be closed without charges and his decision on the eve of the election to reveal to Congress that the FBI had resumed its work.
Horowitz has said publicly he is going to release that report in March or April.
It was not immediately clear whether Comey knew about McCabe’s alleged authorization to disclose information to the media. Asked in May 2017 at a congressional hearing whether he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or if he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied, “Never” and “No.”
Late last month, Comey defended the man he picked to be his top deputy, writing on Twitter that McCabe, “stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades.”
In May, after Comey’s firing, Trump asked McCabe in an Oval Office meeting whom he had voted for in the 2016 election, and vented over donations McCabe’s wife, who ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Virginia legislature, had received from the political action committee of Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe, then the governor of Virginia, is an ally of Clinton, and McCabe, after his wife’s loss in the race, would go on to supervise the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In the months that followed that conversation, Trump repeatedly took aim at McCabe in private and on Twitter, asking why his attorney general had not removed him from his post and remarking in Decemberthat the then-No. 2 official was “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.”
McCabe had long planned to retire March 18, when he became eligible to receive his benefits, but in late January, he surprised the bureau when he abruptly stepped down. The move came after a private meeting in which FBI Director Christopher A. Wray expressed concern to McCabe about what the inspector general had found.
“My conviction to adhering to process is similarly matched by my conviction to holding people accountable,’’ Wray wrote later in a message to staff that thanked McCabe for his “years of dedicated, selfless and brave service to the FBI and the American people.”
McCabe is still expected to formally retire in March. It was not immediately clear whether the inspector general’s report would affect that.”
The New York Times also reported details of Horowitz’s report, which is expected to be released in March or April.
NEW YORK TIMES STORY:
“Andrew McCabe, Ex-Deputy Director of F.B.I., Will Be Faulted for Leaks
WASHINGTON — A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation to journalists, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.
Such a damning report would give President Trump new ammunition to criticize Mr. McCabe, who is at the center of Mr. Trump’s theory that “deep state” actors inside the F.B.I. have been working to sabotage his presidency. But Mr. McCabe’s disclosures to the news media do not fit neatly into that assumption: They contributed to a negative articleabout Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration’s Justice Department — not Mr. Trump.
The department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has zeroed in on disclosures to The Wall Street Journal as part of a wide-ranging investigation into, among other things, how the F.B.I. approached the 2016 inquiry into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information. Mr. Horowitz has said he expects to release a report this month or next.
Mr. McCabe, under pressure from the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, stepped down as the deputy director in late January amid concerns over the coming report.
The findings have potentially serious ramifications for the F.B.I., which is in the middle of a special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Though the report is not expected to focus on that, some of the same agents — including Mr. McCabe — handled both the Russia case and the Clinton inquiry. A report that questions the judgment of those agents would give fodder for Mr. Trump and his supporters to step up their attacks on the F.B.I.
A spokesman for Mr. Horowitz declined to comment. Mr. McCabe also declined to comment. He and his allies have steadfastly maintained that he did nothing improper and cooperated fully with the inspector general.
In October 2016, The Wall Street Journal revealed a dispute between F.B.I. and Justice Department officials over how to proceed in an investigation into the financial dealings of the Clinton family’s foundation. The article revealed a closed-door meeting during which senior Justice Department officials were dismissive of the evidence and declined to authorize subpoenas or grand jury activity. Some F.B.I. agents, the article said, believed that Mr. McCabe had put the brakes on the investigation.
Others rejected that notion. The Journal, citing sources including “one person close to Mr. McCabe,” revealed a tense conversation with a senior Justice Department official in which Mr. McCabe insisted that the F.B.I. had the authority to press ahead with the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
The inspector general has concluded that Mr. McCabe authorized F.B.I. officials to provide information for that article, according to the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the report before it is published. The public affairs office had arranged a phone call to discuss the case, the people said. Mr. McCabe, as deputy director, had the authority to engage the news media.
Such calls are common practice across the federal government when officials believe that journalists have only part of the story. Rather than let incomplete or inaccurate coverage circulate, officials often try to fill out the picture or provide a defense. But Justice Department rules prohibit the dissemination of confidential information, and the inspector general’s report is expected to criticize Mr. McCabe for disclosing the existence of a continuing investigation to The Journal.
When an inquiry uncovers evidence that an agent has violated Justice Department regulations, the inspector general typically refers the matter to the F.B.I.’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which handles questions of punishment.
It is unclear whether the inspector general will identify others who spoke about the Clinton investigation. But Mr. McCabe is by far the most prominent subject. Mr. Trump has taunted him on Twitter, writing in December that he “is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!” Mr. McCabe is eligible to retire March 18.
Mr. Trump has animosity toward Mr. McCabe for several reasons, including his close ties to the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired last year. But the president is particularly bothered by the fact that Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill, ran as a Democrat in a failed campaign for a State Senate seat in Virginia. Her campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from a political committee run by Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia governor at the time and a longtime ally of the Clintons.
Later, after Mrs. McCabe lost the race, Mr. McCabe was promoted to deputy director and oversaw the Clinton investigation. Though Mr. McCabe sought ethics and legal advice about whether to recuse himself, some in the F.B.I. considered his involvement a conflict of interest. Ultimately, amid scrutiny from the news media, Mr. Comey pressured Mr. McCabe to recuse himself. The inspector general is examining whether Mr. McCabe should have done so earlier.
Mr. Trump has seized on that issue in repeatedly criticizing Mr. McCabe, a lifelong Republican who did not vote in the 2016 election. In face-to-face meetings with Mr. McCabe, the president questioned how he had voted and needled him about his wife. In one instance, he called Mrs. McCabe “a loser,” according to people familiar with the conversation, which was first reported by NBC News.
Mr. McCabe’s allies at the F.B.I. say that Mr. Trump is also eager to discredit Mr. McCabe because he can corroborate Mr. Comey’s accounts of meetings with Mr. Trump.
Mr. McCabe rose quickly through the F.B.I. ranks and was seen as a new model for the second-in-command when he was promoted in 2016. The F.B.I. had transformed from a law-and-order agency to an integral part of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, and Mr. McCabe, who graduated from Duke and Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, was picked not based on a career of street work but based on his intellect and decision-making.https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/us/politics/justice-dept-andrew-mccabe.html”
That won him equal parts praise and disdain inside the F.B.I., with longtime agents accusing him of having ascended too quickly.
Mr. McCabe is on leave while he awaits retirement. He was succeeded by David L. Bowdich, the acting F.B.I. deputy director.
McCabe stepped down as deputy director in January after FBI Director Christopher Wray was briefed on Horowitz’s findings. An Obama appointee, Horowitz has been investigating the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation since Jan. 2017.
Among the leaks authorized by McCabe was one to The Wall Street Journal for an Oct. 30, 2016 article detailing an internal FBI and Justice Department battle over the Clinton Foundation investigation.
Some sources for the article suggested that McCabe issued a “stand down” order on the investigation. Other pro-McCabe sources portrayed him in a more positive light.
One source described an August 2016 conversation that McCabe had with a Justice Department official who thought the Clinton Foundation probe was a dead end.
“Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” McCabe asked the official, according to the source.
The sources for the article have not been identified, but one McCabe subordinate was in contact with Devlin Barrett, the reporter who wrote the article for TheWSJ.
Lisa Page, an FBI attorney, sent text messages to FBI agent Peter Strzok discussing her conversations with Barrett. Horowitz discovered Strzok and Page’s text messages as part of his investigation. The discovery led to Strzok’s removal from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
While McCabe’s position allowed him to speak with the media, Horowitz seemingly deemed it problematic that he authorized surrogates to discuss an ongoing investigation.
As for misleading statements about the leaks, The Post reports that McCabe claims that he did not intentionally mislead investigators.
President Donald Trump will likely be pleased with the report, given his public spats with McCabe. Trump has criticized McCabe over campaign contributions that his wife, Jill McCabe, received for a Virginia state Senate race in 2015 from then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe, a staunch ally of the Clintons, directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to McCabe’s unsuccessful campaign. The donations drew attention, in part, because McAuliffe was under FBI investigation over campaign contributions he received from a Chinese billionaire.
McCabe recused himself from that investigation. He also recused himself from the Clinton probe shortly before the 2016 election, after TheWSJ reported the McAuliffe donations. McCabe became involved in the Clinton investigation in February 2016, after his wife’s campaign had ended.