Chuck Ross, DCNF
The Justice Department’s office of the inspector general released a long-awaited report on Friday accusing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe of “lack of candor” about his authorization of leaks to the media.
The report, first published by The New York Times, asserts that McCabe misled the DOJ watchdog and former FBI Director James Comey about the leak authorizations. He also misled the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility when questioned under oath about the leaks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on March 16, less than two days before he was set to retire. The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe be fired for “lack of candor” during interviews about the leak authorizations.
According to the report, McCabe authorized an FBI attorney to speak with The Wall Street Journal about an article regarding the Clinton investigation. The attorney, who is believed to be FBI special counsel Lisa Page, sought to put a positive spin on McCabe and the FBI’s handling of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The article was published on Oct. 30, 2016.
The report notes that McCabe was authorized to have contact with the media. He was also authorized to disclose the existence of the Clinton Foundation investigation if it served the public interest. But the office of the inspector general found that McCabe authorized the leak “in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership.”
“We therefore concluded that McCabe’s disclosure of the existence of an ongoing investigation in this manner violated the FBI’s and the Department’s media policy and constituted misconduct,” reads the report, which was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.
The report lays out four separate instances of McCabe giving false or misleading statements about his authorizations to leak to the press.
The inspector general’s office determined that McCabe misled FBI agents during an interview he gave under oath on May 9, 2017. McCabe “told the agents that he had not authorized the disclosure to the WSJ and did not know who did,” the report states.
And when questioned by the office of the inspector general on July 28, 2017, McCabe stated under oath that he was not aware that his deputy was authorized to talk to reporters. The report also says that McCabe gave a “starkly different account” of his initial story in an interview recorded with the office of the inspector general on Nov. 29, 2017. In that interview, McCabe acknowledged that he had authorized the disclosure to The Journal.
Investigators also determined that McCabe and Comey gave contradictory accounts of their conversations about the Wall Street Journal leak.
McCabe told investigators with the inspector general’s office that on Oct. 30, 2016, he told Comey that he had authorized his special counsel to disclose details of a phone conversation he had with a Justice Department official on Aug. 12, 2016. He said that Comey “did not react negatively” to the information.
But Comey’s recollection of their conversation was vastly different. He told investigators that he viewed the leak about the Aug. 12 phone call to be “problematic” because it disclosed the existence of a sensitive investigation.
He said that McCabe “definitely did not tell me that he authorized” the leak.
“I don’t remember exactly how, but I remember some form or fashion and it could have been like ‘can you believe this crap? How does this stuff get out’ kind of thing?” Comey told the office of the inspector general.
“But I took from whatever communication we had that he wasn’t involved in it.”
McCabe has maintained that he did nothing wrong. He says his high-level position allowed him to interact with the media. He has also said he did not lie to the inspector general’s office about the media disclosures. He has also disputed that he misled Comey.
McCabe raised more than $500,000 earlier this month for his legal defense fund.
The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee responded to the release of the report by attacking Republicans.
“The Republicans have been transparent in their work to discredit and distract from the work of the Russia investigation, so let me be clear: the report issued by the Inspector General today has absolutely nothing to do with Special Counsel Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, the conduct of federal investigators so far, or the multiple indictments they have secured against Russian nationals and Trump campaign officials,” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler said in a statement.
“President Trump will no doubt gloat about these findings and misuse them in his ongoing disinformation campaign,” he continued, asserting that House Republicans “will almost certainly try to use this report to fuel their efforts to distract from the abuses of power by this Administration and to undermine the Department of Justice.”
“Together, they will do everything in their power to lay the groundwork for attacking our judicial system and to prevent the Special Counsel from completing his investigation.”