Yesterday, deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe abruptly went on pre-retirement leave. He’d been scheduled to go on leave in March and as late as last Friday he’d said he intended to stay on the job until then.
What happened? Yesterday, we were able to debunk the idea that this was planned. The question remained about the actual reason McCabe was, it was reported, told to leave by FBI Director Christopher Wray. Two things come to mind.
On Sunday, Wray and a small number of staffers visited the House Intelligence Committee SCIF where they were allowed to view the four-page memo the House voted to make public last night. The memo allegedly covers misuse of the Trump dossier in obtaining a FISA warrant on one or more Trump campaign staffers.
We also know that McCabe is at the center of two Department of Justice IG investigations. The first is rather cut-and-dried. McCabe violated the Hatch Act six ways from Sunday while his wife was running as a Terry McAuliffe/Hillary Clinton favorite for a state senate seat in Virginia. His official Bureau bio appeared in her candidate recruitment package. He was featured on her social media wearing her campaign gear. He did an Instagram picture of him holding a sign encouraging people to vote for his wife. And he pimped her candidacy using his official Bureau email account. A lesser being would be fired or draw a lengthy suspension for this type of stuff but, as we’ve seen, the FBI isn’t terribly convinced the law actually applies when your day-in-day-out job is saving the nation from another political party.
The second IG investigation is more interesting. It involves the actions McCabe took while investigating both candidates for president. Contrary to the bullsh** propaganda spread by people who try to minimize this, McCabe ran the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information from January 2016 until he finally recused himself on November 1, 2016. His recusal only came after former FBI chief of staff Jim Rybicki insisted (this is in a text from Strzok to Page on October 28). Other text messages show a clear reluctance to investigate Hillary because they were afraid she’d take revenge when she was elected. And McCabe was involved in the drafting of the memo that cleared Clinton over a month before the investigation was concluded.
The NYT offers its version of events. Based on past experience we have to assume this was sourced from McCabe.
As recently as last week, Mr. McCabe had told people he hoped to stay until he was eligible to retire in several weeks. Instead, he will immediately go on leave and retire on March 18.
In a recent conversation, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report. In that discussion, according to one former law enforcement official close to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion.
Agents and lawyers expect the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, to be highly critical of some F.B.I. actions in 2016, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The report is expected to address whether Mr. McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation because of his wife’s failed State Senate campaign, in which she accepted nearly a half-million dollars in contributions from the political organization of Terry McAuliffe, then the governor of Virginia, who is a longtime friend of Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Among the actions being scrutinized by the inspector general is Mr. Comey’s highly unusual news conference during the presidential campaign when he criticized Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information, but cleared her of criminal wrongdoing. Many top F.B.I. officials were involved in that decision.
Under Comey and McCabe, the FBI allowed itself to become a player in partisan politics. There is really no other way to frame it. They decided to clear one candidate of multiple felonies without even bothering to finish an investigation and they coordinated their investigation with political appointees within Department of Justice. On the other hand, they bootstrapped an oppo research product paid for by the Clinton campaign into a reason to investigate the Trump campaign and carry the investigation forward during the transition process.
Whatever McCabe’s merits, the FBI and the nation deserve better. It is good that he’s gone.