The DOJ Inspector General’s report on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was released today, nearly a month after McCabe was fired just days before his retirement. As expected, the report concludes that McCabe “lacked candor” when questioned about a leak of information to the Wall Street Journal in October 2016. From the report:
As detailed below, we found that in late October 2016, McCabe authorized Special Counsel and AD/OPA to discuss with [reporter Devlin] Barrett issues related to the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation (CF Investigation)…The disclosure to the WSJ effectively confirmed the existence of the CF Investigation, which then-FBI Director Comey had previously refused to do.
We found that, in a conversation with then-Director Comey shortly after the WSJ article was published, McCabe lacked candor when he told Comey, or made statements that led Comey to believe, that McCabe had not authorized the disclosure and did not know who did. This conduct violated FBI Offense Code 2.5 (Lack of Candor – No Oath).
We also found that on May 9, 2017, when questioned under oath by FBI agents from INSD, McCabe lacked candor when he told the agents that he had not authorized the disclosure to the WSJ and did not know who did. This conduct violated FBI Offense Code 2.6 (Lack of Candor – Under Oath).
We further found that on July 28, 2017, when questioned under oath by the OIG in a recorded interview, McCabe lacked candor when he stated: (a) that he was not aware of Special Counsel having been authorized to speak to reporters around October 30 and (b) that, because he was not in Washington, D.C., on October 27 and 28, 2016, he was unable to say where Special Counsel was or what she was doing at that time. This conduct violated FBI Offense Code 2.6 (Lack of Candor – Under Oath).
This is all part of the introductory summary of the report. The full report has a lot more detail on each of these events. For instance, during the May 9th interview with McCabe, he led agents to believe he was the victim of the leak in question and suggested he had “no idea where it came from.” When the agents later presented him with a summary of their conversation it read like this [emphasis added]:
On 05/09/2017, [INSD-Section Chief] and [INSD-SSA1] provided me with a photocopy of a Wall Street Journal article, dated 10/30/2016, and requested I evaluate and assess the content of the first three paragraphs appearing on the last page for accuracy. My assessment of the referenced portion of the article is that it is basically an accurate depiction of an actual telephonic interaction I had with a Department of Justice (DOJ) executive. I do not know the identity of the source of the information contained in the article. Since this event, I have shared the circumstances of this interaction with numerous FBI senior executives and other FBI personnel. I gave no one authority to share any information relative to my interaction with the DOJ executive with any member of the media. I initialed a photocopy of the article, which is attached to my statement as Exhibit Number 5.
Investigators sent that account to McCabe who was supposed to sign and return it, acknowledging it was an accurate summary of their conversation, but one month later McCabe had never signed or returned it.
After McCabe was fired last month he published a statement saying he had been honest with investigators and had later tried to clear up any misunderstanding. “During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them,” McCabe wrote. That makes it sound as if there were some confusion and McCabe did his best to clear it up. But the IG report tells a different story. It finds that his attempts to correct the record months later also lacked candor:
During his OIG interview on November 29, 2017, McCabe provided a very different account of his interactions with INSD on May 9. Specifically, McCabe told the OIG that the INSD agents “must have” gotten it wrong when they wrote in the draft SSS that he told them on May 9 that he did not authorize the conversation and that he did not know who the source was. McCabe said that he did not believe he told INSD that he did not authorize the disclosure, but added “I don’t remember what I said to them.” He added “I don’t remember discussing authorization of that article” with INSD and that “the INSD folks and I walked away from that, from that exchange with a difference in understanding.” However, he acknowledged to the OIG that his initials appeared on the copy of the WSJ article that INSD presented to him for review during the interview. McCabe told the OIG that he did not know and could not explain how INSD got the impression that he thought it was an unauthorized leak because he said he does not believe he told INSD that.
So, McCabe lied under oath to FBI agents on May 9th, claiming he’d never authorized the leak. Then when he decided to change his story in November, he claimed he’d never told those agents he hadn’t authorized the leak. In other words, he lied about having lied.
In his post-firing statement, McCabe also argued that he was authorized to allow agents to talk to the press and, therefore, the leak itself was fully authorized. He wrote, “this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.” But the IG report says the circumstances of the leak were found not to meet the standards of the FBI because they were largely about defending Andrew McCabe [emphasis added]:
Lastly, we determined that as Deputy Director, McCabe was authorized to disclose the existence of the CF Investigation publicly if such a disclosure fell within the “public interest” exception in applicable FBI and DOJ policies generally prohibiting such a disclosure of an ongoing investigation. However, we concluded that McCabe’s decision to confirm the existence of the CF Investigation through an anonymously sourced quote, recounting the content of a phone call with a senior Department official in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership, was clearly not within the public interest exception. 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.
McCabe’s basic claim after he was fired was that he was a victim of a politicized effort by the Trump administration to ruin his good name and the reputation of the FBI. It doesn’t help McCabe’s case that one of the people claiming he lied is noted Trump-fan James Comey. It was Comey who said McCabe had led him to believe he had not authorized the leak. Is it really credible, now that Comey’s Trump-trashing book is out, that Comey was part of a White House effort to ruin McCabe’s good name?
This began as an internal FBI investigation and the problem here is that McCabe repeatedly lied about what he’d done and then lied about having lied about it. None of that is the fault of Donald Trump.
Update: Fox News’ story on the IG report.