Watchdog Report: Ex-FBI Deputy Director Misled Investigators

FILE - In this June 7, 2017 file photo, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. McCabe misled investigators multiple times about his role in a news media disclosure about Hillary Clinton just days before the 2016 presidential election, according to a Justice Department watchdog report. The report alleges that McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak with a Wall Street Journal reporter for a story about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation and then misled FBI and Justice Department officials when later questioned about it. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the fired FBI deputy director, misled investigators multiple times about his role in a news media disclosure about Hillary Clinton just days before the 2016 presidential election and authorized the release of information to “advance his personal interests,” according to a Justice Department watchdog report.

The report alleges that McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak with a Wall Street Journal reporter for a story about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, in violation of agency rules, and then misled FBI and Justice Department officials when later questioned about it. The report also reveals contradictory accounts between McCabe and his boss at the time, Director James Comey, over whether the conversation with the journalist had received proper approval.

McCabe, who was fired just two days before his scheduled retirement, denied the report’s allegations in a detailed rebuttal statement. McCabe says that when he believed his answers to the inspector general were misunderstood, he returned and tried to correct them. The report notes that McCabe, as deputy director, had full authority to authorize sharing information with the media and permitted subordinates to do so in this case to correct had a false narrative that he had tried to stymie an FBI probe into the Clinton Foundation.

The conversation “was done to protect the institutional reputation of the FBI as a non-political and professional investigative agency, and therefore was squarely within the public interest exception to the FBI’s prohibition on sharing sensitive material,” the document says.

The inspector general report does not square with the Republican narrative of the FBI as a politically biased institution since the Oct. 30 story contained derogatory information about Clinton and her foundation. But its conclusion may also be hard for Democrats to embrace given its harshly critical suggestion that McCabe had put his personal reputation above the interests of the FBI.

Regardless, the report is sure to provide additional fodder for President Donald Trump’s public attacks on McCabe. The president has made a concerted and Twitter-driven effort to impugn McCabe as a partisan hack, accusing him of covering up unspecified “lies and corruption” at the FBI and calling his firing a “great day for Democracy.” McCabe has fired back, saying his dismissal was part of the Trump administration’s “ongoing war” on the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The report was sent to congressional committees and obtained by The Associated Press.

The inspector general’s finding led FBI disciplinary officials to recommend that the Justice Department fire McCabe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions dismissed him last month for what he described as a lack of candor.

McCabe also has said he believes he was singled out because of the “role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath” of Comey’s firing. To support this, McCabe has noted that the inspector general’s investigation into him was accelerated after he told congressional investigators that he could corroborate Comey’s accounts of his conversations with Trump.

McCabe could be an important witness for Mueller, who is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, including his motivation for firing Comey in May 2017. The Associated Press has also confirmed that McCabe kept personal memos detailing interactions with the president and they have been provided to the special counsel’s office.

BY ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK - APR 13. 2018 - 3:40 PM EDT AP

 
 

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