‘I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could…’
(Liberty Headlines) Federal prosecutors have declined to charge former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, closing an investigation into whether he lied to federal officials about his involvement in a news media disclosure, McCabe’s legal team said Friday.
The decision resolves a criminal investigation that spanned more than a year and began with a referral from the Justice Department’s inspector general, which said McCabe repeatedly lied about having authorized a subordinate to share information with a newspaper reporter for a 2016 article about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe’s lawyers said in a statement they were told in a phone call and letter that the case is closed and “no charges will be brought against him based on the facts.”
However, McCabe remains a likely subject in the ongoing criminal investigation being led by federal prosecutor John Durham.
Unlike the IG report, which was narrowly limited to examining the specific leaking instances within its scope, Durham’s probe has been far more expansive in its focus on the broader efforts by deep-state intelligence operatives to frame and spy on the Trump campaign.
He played a pivotal role in the direct oversight of FBI investigations into then-candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, personally appointing politically biased counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok to direct field operations while using backdoor channels to receive and promote the fabricated Steele Dossier, a piece of supposed opposition research commissioned by the Clinton campaign that suggested Russia had compromising information on Trump and had been colluding with members of his campaign.
McCabe’s own partisan ties were reaffirmed by Inspector General Michael Horowitz‘s investigations. One IG report criticized him for failing to recuse himself from the Clinton case even as his wife, Jill, was running a campaign for the Virginia state Senate and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from then Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton associate and former fundraiser.
McCabe, a frequent target of attacks from President Donald Trump, has denied that he intentionally misled anyone. He has said his 2018 firing—for what the Justice Department called “lack of candor”—was politically motivated.
He sued the Justice Department in August, saying officials had used the inspector general’s conclusions as a pretext to rid the FBI of leaders Trump perceived as biased against him.
In a letter on Friday, prosecutors told McCabe’s lawyers that they decided “not to pursue criminal charges against your client” after careful consideration.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by the chief of the U.S. attorney’s office’s public corruption unit.
The decision to spare McCabe criminal charges eliminates the prospect of a sensational trial that would have refocused public attention on the chaotic months of 2016, when the FBI was entangled in presidential politics through investigations touching both main contenders — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Trump, her Republican opponent.
The investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington arose from an October 2016 story in the Wall Street Journal that described internal debates roiling the FBI and the Justice Department weeks before the presidential election about how aggressively the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. The article recounted a particularly tense phone call between McCabe and a senior Justice Department official about the investigation.
The inspector general’s report said McCabe repeatedly told internal investigators that he had not authorized anyone at the FBI to speak with the reporter and that he did not know who he did. The report said McCabe ultimately corrected that account and confirmed that he had encouraged the conversation with the reporter to counter a narrative that he thought was false.
McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and has said he was distracted by the tumult surrounding the FBI and the White House — one of the interviews took place the same day that former FBI Director FBI James Comey — during the times he was questioned.
“During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me,” McCabe has said in a statement. “And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.”
In an interview a year ago on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” McCabe falsely claimed that the FBI opened its investigation into the President based on credible intelligence that Russia had compromised Trump.
“We don’t open investigations because we like someone or don’t like them, or because they’re a Republican or Democrat,” McCabe said. “We open investigations when we have the information that would predicate an investigation. We had that, in this instance, undeniable.”
However, he did not mention that the so-called ‘undeniable’ information was the infamous Steele dossier, a discredited report of salacious gossip from a British intelligence source that began as opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign.
It was only after Clinton lost the election that the FBI began paying the political-research group Fusion GPS for the information, although a top Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion, had likely been acting as a go-between during the bureau’s pre-election efforts to get dirt on Trump.
After Trump appropriately exercised his authority to fire FBI Director James Comey—whose botched partisan interference in the election, by many accounts, had done far more damage than anything Russia attempted—McCabe conspired with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to retaliate.
McCabe described to Colbert the harrowing period after Trump advised him that he would be next in line for house-cleaning, as he scrambled to kick his offensive counter-attack against Trump into high gear.
“It was a very serious time,” he said. “I felt that my time as acting director would likely be very short—I knew that because the president told me. … And I knew there was work we needed to do to make sure the investigation was on rock-solid ground.”
The two powerful investigative officials discussed having Rosenstein wear a wire, and even humored the possibility that the duly elected chief executive could be declared unfit for office based on the 25th Amendment, which was enacted to address the possibility of a president being physically incapacitated.
“Rod was really just kind of spinning through a number of different topics,” McCabe told Colbert. “That’s one thing he mentioned in the course of that chaotic conversation.”
McCabe has been a target of Trump’s attacks since even before he was elected, after news emerged in the fall of 2016 that McCabe’s wife had accepted campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during an unsuccessful run for the state Senate there.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press. Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed.