The Slatest

Andrew McCabe Got Fired for Allegedly Misleading James Comey, Which Screws Up Pretty Much Everyone’s Narrative

Andrew McCabe at the Justice Department.
Andrew McCabe at the Justice Department on July 13.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice’s inspector general has released a report about the controversial firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. It’s a detailed document, but here’s the gist of what is recounted and alleged:

• In October 2016, a Wall Street Journal reporter contacted the FBI and said he’d heard that McCabe was telling agents involved in the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation to “stand down.” (The agency investigated the Clintons’ nonprofit for potential corruption; no charges were ever filed. McCabe was at that point the subject of public scrutiny regarding Clinton because his wife received significant fundraising assistance from Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe during an unsuccessful run for office.)

• McCabe authorized two FBI employees to convey to the WSJ reporter that McCabe had in fact vociferously defended the FBI’s right to continue investigating the Clinton Foundation during an August 2016 conversation with a Department of Justice official.

• While McCabe did have the authority to make decisions about disclosures to the press, this particular disclosure didn’t conform to the FBI’s policies on when and how to comment on ongoing investigations, took place during a period when leaks had created high tension between the FBI and DOJ, and likely would not have been approved by then–FBI Director James Comey had he been apprised of it in advance.

• McCabe misled Comey after the Journal published its story, giving Comey the impression that he (McCabe) did not know how an account of the August 2016 conversation had ended up in the paper.

• McCabe then misled both internal FBI investigators (in May 2017) and inspector general investigators (in July 2017) who were looking into the source of the disclosure to the Journal. While McCabe did ultimately contact investigators in August 2017 to say that he’d authorized the disclosure, and gave further testimony about that disclosure in November 2017, he continued to be dishonest about having misled Comey.

To be clear, the bulleted summary above is an account of the IG report’s claims, not a summary of my independent conclusions about each specific issue. McCabe’s lawyer disputes the report’s characterization of McCabe’s behavior and says the situation is a matter of “misunderstanding” and “miscommunication” rather than dishonesty.

Assuming the IG report is accurate, it throws a wrench into the narratives that both parties have developed about McCabe’s firing. Donald Trump and other Republicans have sought to portray him as a collaborator in Comey’s “Deep State” war on the presidency. Not surprisingly, Trump tweeted about the report to this effect without appearing to have read it or even been told what was in it:

In fact, the report makes clear that Comey’s contradiction of McCabe’s testimony about the Journal article—and, more broadly, McCabe’s seeming realization that he had screwed up by effectively circumventing Comey when he authorized the disclosure to the Journal—was the central reason he ended up in trouble.

Democrats, meanwhile, have largely made McCabe into a #resistance hero in Comey’s mold, assuming (not without reason) that the fact that McCabe’s firing was approved by attorney general Jeff Sessions meant that McCabe had been railroaded as part of Trump’s larger war on the FBI. But the report cites significant circumstantial, documentary, and testimonial evidence that, at least to this observer, support its central conclusion that McCabe demonstrated a serious failure to speak with “candor” under oath on more than one occasion.

And, for the record, the report says in a footnote that the DOJ official discussed in the Journal story confirmed McCabe’s account of their August 2016 conversation. In other words, all of this happened because Andrew McCabe—alleged agent of the Clinton/Obama Deep State—angrily defended the FBI’s right to investigate Clinton during a conversation with an official in Obama’s Department of Justice. Sometimes it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.