Analysis: The Leak That McCabe Once Investigated Sessions is an Irrelevant Deflection

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 10:25 AM

Having covered former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's effective suspension and subsequent firing, I'd like to quickly weigh in on this week's ABC News report that McCabe had once led an investigation into Sessions over apparent misstatements about his interactions with Russian officials during the campaign.  Katie already noted that McCabe evidently launched that probe at the behest of Democratic lawmakers, which is an intriguing angle to the story.  But in my mind, there are three major reasons why this "revelation" does not matter, setting aside the strong likelihood that this story was obviously planted in an attempt to discredit the McCabe termination, perhaps orchestrated by McCabe himself:

(1) McCabe was fired because an independent, Obama-appointed Inspector General determined that he'd engaged in unauthorized leaking to the media, then misled IG investigators about having done so.  That evidence was reviewed by widely-respected current FBI Director (who had previously gone to the mat on McCabe's behalf), who consequently placed McCabe on "terminal leave."  The FBI's nonpartisan ethics office, known as the Office of Professional Responsibility, also examined the Inspector General's findings and determined that the proper recourse was to fire McCabe.  The Attorney General followed through on that recommendation.  That's about as apolitical, by the book, and non-suspicious as it gets.  To cast doubt on the legitimacy of the firing, one must cast doubt on the integrity not of anyone in Trumpworld, but of the nonpartisan IG and the FBI's OPR.

(2) The subject of McCabe's investigation into Sessions -- ironically, the very sort of deliberate non-candor that led to McCabe getting sacked -- was scrutinized by Robert Mueller's team...which exonerated Sessions:

Within weeks, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation and related inquiries, including the Sessions matter. Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller's team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions. "The Special Counsel's office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress," attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday.

(3) When he acted upon the advice of career FBI ethics officials -- who'd drawn on Inspector General-derived evidence to reach their conclusion -- Attorney General Sessions (who, remember, had recused himself on all Russia-related matters) reportedly did not know that McCabe had ever initiated an investigation into him:

McCabe's previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move. One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

So to recap, Democrats were (defensibly and understandably) eager for a Sessions investigation, due to his misstatements and inaccurate recollections.  McCabe, then a top FBI official, agreed with their reasoning and took the lead in launching a probe into his boss' boss.  When the Bureau's existing Russia inquiry was subsumed by the special counsel probe, Mueller and company tracked down that thread.  After looking into it and interviewing Sessions, they determined that he was not guilty of perjury or other related offenses and was no longer a target of their investigation (at least on that front).  Months later, after independent watchdogs found separate and unrelated wrongdoing on McCabe's behalf and recommended that he be fired over his misconduct, Sessions accepted their judgment and executed their recommendation, having been unaware of McCabe's previous investigative activity into him.  There is no scandal here, unless Sessions' attorneys and ABC News' other sources are lying.  If there's evidence of deceit, let's see it.  If there isn't any evidence to that effect, this leak looks like a craven attempt to muddy the waters and make McCabe's justified dismissal look like an act of partisan vengeance.  The president's tweets certainly feed that impression, but the actual underlying facts and context tell the real story. 

I'll leave you with two parting head-scratchers, via Allahpundit.  First, some snark: "I wonder who could have leaked this. It would have to be someone with high-level FBI knowledge, who suddenly has an axe to grind with Jeff Sessions and the president. Imagine what else such a person might know and might be willing to share in a tell-all book, the royalties from which could fund a lavish retirement just in case his nest egg is momentarily a little short. Any theories?" Gee.  Second, and more importantly:

Sessions’s lawyer told ABC that “The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress.” Since when is Bob Mueller’s office in the habit of announcing who is and isn’t still under investigation in Russiagate? If Sessions could be cleared before the investigation is complete, why can’t any of the other major players?

Good questions.