- The Department of Justice is examining whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe deliberately decelerated the Hillary Clinton email investigation so as not to sway the 2016 election.
- The DOJ inspector general is reportedly looking into why McCabe took three weeks to respond to a request to examine newly-uncovered emails that agents at the time believed could be relevant to the Clinton probe.
- McCabe was reportedly told Monday morning that he was being “removed” from the FBI, and FBI Director Christopher Wray indicated in a note to employees that the move was related to the OIG’s investigation into McCabe’s handling of the Clinton investigation.
The Department of Justice’s inspector general is probing whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe slowed the bureau’s response after he was alerted to a new batch of emails pertaining to the Hillary Clinton email investigation in early October, The Washington Post reported.
The emails in question belonged to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who was married at the time to former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. The FBI discovered Abedin’s work emails on Weiner’s laptop in late September 2016, while it was investigating him for exchanging sexually explicit messages with a teenage girl. Weiner was sentenced last September to 21 months in prison after being found guilty of one charge of transferring obscene material to a minor.
McCabe reportedly became aware of the request to review the new batch of emails shortly after they were first discovered in September 2016, but he did not take action until about three weeks later, in late October.
Agents investigating Weiner’s conduct at the New York FBI field office looped FBI headquarters in on the new emails within days, according to The Post. Officials at the FBI’s headquarters subsequently asked agents on the Weiner case to analyse the emails’ content and metadata to determine whether they were pertinent to the Clinton probe. Sources told The Post that McCabe was involved in the interactions, but the degree of his involvement is unclear.
Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice inspector general, is said to be keenly focused on why top FBI officials did not appear to address the emails until weeks after being alerted to their existence.
In particular, the report said, Horowitz is probing whether McCabe and other key figures avoided taking action so as not to sway the November 8 election. Some sources told The Post that then FBI director James Comey became aware of the new emails around the same time McCabe did, while others said he did not find out until weeks later.
About two months before the Abedin emails came to light, Comey said during a July 2016 press conference that the bureau was closing the Clinton email investigation. While he described her conduct as “extremely careless,” Comey said that the FBI would not ask that the DOJ bring criminal charges.
Three months later, on October 28, Comey announced that the FBI was reopening its investigation in light of the newly-discovered emails. He said in a letter to Congress at the time that he had become aware of the Weiner laptop findings one day earlier, on October 27. A week later, he said in a second letter that the FBI had not changed its decision on Clinton’s conduct and whether to recommend criminal charges.
Though Trump, Republican lawmakers, and conservative media outlets frequently point to Comey’s and McCabe’s actions as evidence of anti-Trump bias within the nation’s top law-enforcement agency, McCabe’s defenders have said the delay was expected as FBI agents did the necessary due diligence to investigate their findings.
Accusations of bias within the DOJ and FBI reached a fever pitch in recent weeks. On Monday, multiple media outlets reported that McCabe was being forced out of the bureau. ACNN producer and a Fox News report described sources as saying McCabe was told Monday morning to step down and that he was being “removed” from the FBI.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a message to employees on Monday night that McCabe’s ouster was primarily the result of the inspector general’s investigation into his handling of the Clinton investigation, NBC News reported.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific aspects of the IG’s review right now,” Wray said in the message. “But I can assure you that I remain staunchly committed to doing this job, in every respect, ‘by the book.’ I will not be swayed by political or other pressure in my decision making.”
Wray went on to say that McCabe had signalled his intent to retire after meeting with him to discuss the inspector general’s investigation.
Wray’s message came following reports last week that said Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushing the FBI director to replace McCabe and James Baker, the former FBI general counsel who was reassigned within the bureau in December.
Comey informed both Baker and McCabe, as well as his chief of staff and senior counselor James Rybicki, of his conversations with Trump last year, during which he said Trump asked him for his loyalty and to let go of the bureau’s ongoing investigation into former national-security adviser Michael Flynn.
The White House tapped McCabe to be acting FBI director when Trump fired James Comey last May . But McCabe appeared to become a sore spot for Trump as the bureau’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during the election began picking up steam last year.
“Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $US700,000 from H for wife!” Trump tweeted last July, referring to the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business.
The next day, he added in a pair of tweets: “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got … big dollars ($US700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!”
Trump ramped up his tirade in December. “How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $US700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted on December 23.
McCabe’s wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, mounted an unsuccessful run for a Virginia state Senate seat in 2015. The Wall Street Journal reported on October 24, 2016 that her campaign received $US675,000 in donations from the Virginia Democratic Party and from Common Good VA, the super PAC run by Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter. None of the donations came from Clinton or her family.
McCabe was not in charge at the time of the Clinton investigation and he did not take on an “oversight role” in the probe until February 2016, long after his wife lost her election bid.
The FBI also released a trove of internal emails and documents earlier this month which confirmed that McCabe was not warned against becoming involved in the Clinton investigation but recused himself anyway following The Journal’s report.
But Abedin’s emails nonetheless took on new significance after the article was published in October 2016, and at least one senior DOJ official raised questions about the status of the inquiry immediately after, according to The Post.