WASHINGTON — An inspector general’s report used to justify the recent firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was sent to Congress on Friday, alleging that McCabe misled investigators about his role in providing information to the media before the 2016 election.
The report by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General concludes that McCabe “lacked candor, including under oath, on multiple occasions” when asked about his role in giving information about a Clinton Foundation investigation to a WallStreet Journal reporter in October 2016. That “lack of candor” violated FBI rules, according to the report, written by inspector general Michael Horowitz.
The Journal was writing a story at the time about a dispute between the FBI and the Justice Department over how to handle a probe into the Clinton Foundation, a non-profit organization created by former president Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
McCabe told investigators he didn’t authorize anyone at the FBI to talk to the reporter, when actually he approved it, according to the report.
“McCabe’s disclosure of the existence of an ongoing investigation in the manner described in this report violated the FBI’s and the Department’s media policy and constituted misconduct,” the report concluded.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe on March 16, just days before McCabe would have been eligible for retirement benefits. McCabe had been a frequent target of President Trump, who accused him of bias against the president.
McCabe’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, said Friday that McCabe was authorized to share information with the press and did nothing wrong in helping the reporter. He also said McCabe is considering filing civil lawsuits against President Trump and senior members of the administration for “wrongful termination, defamation, Constitutional violations and more.”
“The core weakness of the OIG report is the lack of any understandable motive for his (McCabe’s) alleged wrongdoing,” Bromwich said in a statement. “It is undisputed that Mr. McCabe was one of three senior FBI officials authorized to share information with the media, including on sensitive investigative matters.”
McCabe chose to exercise that authority in October 2016, “during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the Bureau, with the knowledge of (former FBI) Director (James) Comey and other senior members of FBI management,” Bromwich said.
“His purpose was to protect the institutional reputation of the FBI against false claims, including that a sensitive investigation (of the Clinton Foundation) was being shut down for political reasons,” Bromwich said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, expressed concern Friday that Trump and Republican lawmakers would use the report to try to discredit the unrelated Russia investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on behalf of the Justice Department.
That investigation is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, and possible obstruction of justice by the president.
“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,” Nadler said in a statement.
Despite that, Nadler said, “President Trump will no doubt gloat about these findings and misuse them in his ongoing disinformation campaign.”
“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,” the congressman said. “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.”
Trump tweeted Friday that McCabe “LIED! LIED! LIED” and was “totally controlled” by Comey, whom Trump fired last May as the FBI was investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Comey just wrote a scathing account of Trump’s behavior in a new book that is scheduled for release next week.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the report confirms that McCabe’s firing was justified.
“The second in command at our nation’s premiere law enforcement agency should be the epitome of fidelity, bravery and integrity,” Gowdy said Friday in a statement. “The Inspector General found not only did McCabe divulge sensitive information, he did it without the permission, authority, or knowledge of his supervisor. The report also found a lack of candor both while under oath and while not under oath, and a failure to remedy his lack of candor despite multiple opportunities.”
In a broader swipe at the FBI and Comey, Gowdy said: “This report continues to call into question decisions made by FBI leadership in 2016 and 2017, which is why the Oversight and Judiciary Committees will continue our joint investigation into the matter.”
The report made public Friday is only part of a larger review that Horowitz is conducting into a wide range of potential misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in 2016, including the bureau’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.
Congress is receiving the report amid increased tensions between the White House and the Justice Department over the Russia investigation. Democrats have expressed fear that Trump may soon try to fire Mueller or Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation.
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