We've been all over the recent developments involving former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe's effective suspension, firing, and possible prosecution -- as well as his huffing and puffing about potential lawsuits against the Trump administration. Amid all the tribal yelling and partisan fingerprinting, this much is indisputable: McCabe ordered an unauthorized leak to the Wall Street Journal in July of 2016, then "lacked candor" (i.e. lied) about it on at least four occasions, including under oath. For this, he was fired, based on the recommendation of the Obama-appointed, nonpartisan Inspector General. The FBI's ethics office agreed. The IG also referred the case to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges, given McCabe's clear violation of the law. You cannot lie to federal investigators.
Former US prosecutor Andrew McCarthy -- whose insights into the entire Russia investigation saga and all of its offshoots, both favorable and unfavorable to President Trump -- are truly invaluable. We've quoted him at length throughout this ongoing drama, including just last week, when he explained why the Michael Cohen raids struck him as a sign of serious peril for Team Trump. In his latest piece, McCarthy recounts the circumstances of McCabe's firing and criminal referral, but argues that by fixating on those specifics, observers may lose sight of a critical element of the McCabe kerfuffle: Namely, what the original leak he authorized (which triggered the cascade of lies) was about:
The Justice Department’s inspector general has referred Andrew McCabe to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., for a possible false-statements prosecution. It was big news this week. But the story of how the FBI’s former deputy director lied to investigators, repeatedly, is mainly of interest to him. It is the story of what he lied about that should be of interest to everyone else. He lied about leaking a conversation in which the Obama Justice Department pressured the FBI to stand down on an investigation of the Clinton Foundation... The bulk of the IG report documents McCabe’s mendacity: He dishonestly denied knowledge of the leak he had ordered, covered his tracks by deflecting blame, and — when he finally admitted his role — falsely suggested that Comey had been aware and approving of his actions. McCabe lies to his boss, he lies to his fellow agents, and he lies — under oath — in interviews conducted by the FBI’s internal investigators and the IG. Even when he changes his story, McCabe lies about the lies.
Ouch. McCarthy goes on to meticulously review the circumstances around the Journal leak, which pertained to a story we covered closely at the time. During the home stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign, serious questions were raised about the Obama Justice Department and FBI higher-ups working to kill or suppress a federal investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The Journal's sources said that McCabe had issued something akin to a 'stand-down order' on that probe, an act that raised ethical questions, in light of McCabe's wife's hefty financial support from a top Clintonworld figure during her failed State Senate bid in Virginia. That report didn't sit well with McCabe, who felt moved to push back against allegations of impropriety via a protocol-violating leak:
About two weeks before Election Day 2016, the then–deputy director was stung by a Wall Street Journal story that questioned his fitness to lead an investigation of Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ nominee. McCabe’s wife had received $675,000 in donations from a political action committee controlled by the Clintons’ notorious confidant, Virginia’s then–governor Terry McAuliffe — an eye-popping amount for a state senate campaign (which Mrs. McCabe lost). It was perfectly reasonable to question McCabe’s objectivity: The justice system’s integrity hinges on the perception, as well as the reality, of impartiality. The reporter on the story, Devlin Barrett (then with the Journal, now at the Washington Post), soon had questions for the Bureau for a follow-up he was working on: Back in July, according to Barrett’s sources, McCabe had instructed agents to refrain from making overt moves that could alert the public that Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ nominee, was yet again on the FBI’s radar — this time, owing to a probe of the Clinton Foundation.
Barrett’s call came in just as the Bureau was dealing with the controversy over Director James Comey’s reopening of the Clinton emails investigation. Comey convened a meeting of the FBI’s leadership team to discuss reviewing emails, some of which were classified, that had been found on the private computers of Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner (who had been “sexting” with a minor). Because he was out of town, McCabe telephoned in to the meeting. He was humiliated, however, when Comey instructed him to get off the call. The director and his chief counsel were concerned about the perception of pro-Clinton bias. After stewing for a few hours, McCabe got in touch with his special counsel, Lisa Page — the FBI lawyer now infamous, along with her alleged paramour, FBI agent Peter Strzok, for thousands of text messages, many bracingly partisan and anti-Trump. McCabe instructed Page to rebut Barrett’s story with a leak. Specifically, she was to tell Barrett about a tense conversation on August 12, 2016, between McCabe and a high-ranking Obama Justice Department official. The leak would show that McCabe, far from burying the Clinton Foundation investigation, had defended the FBI’s pursuit of it.
Following everything so far? McCabe was burned by the idea that he'd interfered on the Clintons' behalf (by helping to ensure another credibility-damaging investigation didn't explode over Hillary's campaign in the lead-up to the election), so he leaked details of a conversation in which he'd explicitly resisted an Obama official who was treading very close to telling him to drop the matter. For what it's worth, McCarthy praises McCabe for standing up to this pressure, noting that the official in question later confirmed that the conversation had taken place. Then again, the Journal's sources also affirmed that McCabe had, in fact, issued some form of a stand down order.
Here's McCarthy's conclusion, which flips the "collusion" term back against the political Left: "After nearly two years of digging, there is still no proof of Trump-campaign collusion in Russian election-meddling. But we have collusion all right: the executive branch’s law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus placed by the Obama administration in the service of the Clinton campaign. To find that, you don’t need to dig. You just need to open your eyes." I'll leave you with a presidential tweet about the McCabe caper, and McCarthy's aggrieved response to Trump's sloppy and counter-productive pronouncement:
DOJ just issued the McCabe report - which is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2018
This is as foolish as it is unhinged. In his raging contempt for Comey, Trump misrepresents the report, which relates that McCabe deceived the former director, and that Comey’s convincingly corroborated, clear-stated denial of McCabe’s version of events helped the IG get to the bottom of the mess. Moreover, the IG’s account of McCabe’s chicanery is so daunting, the only defense he is likely to mount is that any prosecution of him is politically driven by a revenge-minded chief executive, not based on evidence weighed by non-partisan prosecutors. The president is playing right into his hands. As we’ve observed, again and again, it is maddening that a president so conspicuously pro-law-enforcement, by constantly bloviating about investigations, keeps making cases harder to prosecute.
Trump's desire to highlight information that helps discredit figures he views as adversaries in the Russia investigation is understandable. But spiking the football -- and doing so inaccurately -- undermines his own case. This is a perfect example of why Trump's undisciplined Twitter feed can be so detrimental to his own cause. There's a reason why even a large majority of Republicans want him to show significant more restraint on social media than he does.