IG report faults fired FBI official McCabe for leak to media

The Department of Justice’s inspector general concluded that fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Gowdy: House will use 'full arsenal' of constitutional weapons to get DOJ, FBI compliance on subpoenas James Comey's higher disloyalty to America MORE made a leak to the media “designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership,” according to a copy of the report obtained by The Hill. 

The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz makes the case that McCabe authorized disclosures to the media that were designed to combat the perception that he had a conflict of interest in overseeing dual FBI investigations related to former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKoch brothers group won't back Stewart in Virginia Giuliani says his demand for Mueller probe to be suspended was for show Poll: GOP challenger narrowly leads Heitkamp in North Dakota MORE.

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“We concluded that McCabe’s decision to confirm the existence of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation through an anonymously sourced quote, recounting the content of a phone call with a senior Department official in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership, was clearly not within the public interest exception,” Horowitz wrote.

McCabe has disputed the charges as politically motivated. His attorney responded immediately on Friday that the report “utterly failed to support the decision to terminate Mr. McCabe.”

Michael Bromwich, McCabe’s attorney, also blasted the process by which he was terminated as “unprecedented, unseemly and cruel.”

The press disclosures in question were made to Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett shortly after he wrote a story detailing political donations from Clinton ally and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to the failed state Senate campaign of McCabe’s wife, Jill.

At the time, the story created a political uproar about McCabe’s impartiality.

In response to follow-up questions from Barrett, McCabe authorized two officials to discuss with Barrett “issues related to the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.”

The disclosure — which was made by staff for McCabe — recounted McCabe’s version of a conversation with a Justice Department official about the investigation, in which McCabe says he pushed back on concerns about FBI agents taking “overt steps” during the presidential campaign.

“Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly-predicated investigation,” McCabe says he said. 

According to the Horowitz report, the disclosures were in part designed “to rebut a narrative that … questioned McCabe’s impartiality in overseeing FBI investigations involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and claimed that McCabe had ordered the termination of the [Clinton Foundation] Investigation due to Department of Justice pressure.”

The disclosure to Barrett, the report states, “effectively confirmed the existence” of the Clinton Foundation investigation — something then-Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani says his demand for Mueller probe to be suspended was for show Cuomo, Smerconish and Melber – Where facts matter Hillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review MORE was at that point refusing to do.

According to the report, McCabe said that he did not view the disclosures to Barrett as confirming the existence of the investigation because the purpose was to demonstrate the FBI’s independence and “there really wasn’t any discussion of the case, of the merits of the case, the targets and subjects of the case.”

At the time, Republicans were concerned that the Obama-era Justice Department, led by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, was putting pressure on the bureau to shut down the Clinton probes. Barrett, according to the report, had sources who were telling him McCabe had given an order to “stand down” on the investigation.

The IG found McCabe’s rationale for the disclosure unpersuasive.

“Had McCabe’s primary concern actually been to reassure the public that the FBI was pursuing the [Clinton Foundation] investigation despite the anonymous claims in the article, the way that the FBI and the Department would usually accomplish that goal is through a public statement reassuring the public that the FBI is investigating the matter,” it reads.

After the story ran, the report states, McCabe led Comey to believe that he had not authorized the disclosures that lead to Barrett’s story and did not know who did. He allegedly made the same statement to internal investigators when questioned under oath months later.

“I don’t remember exactly how, but I remember some form or fashion and it could have been like ‘can you believe this crap? How does this stuff get out’ kind of thing?” Comey told investigators. “But I took from whatever communication we had that he wasn’t involved in it.”

According to McCabe, he told Comey that he had authorized the phone call with Barrett — something that as deputy director, he had the inherent authority to do if it was in the public interest.

“We found it extremely unlikely, as McCabe now claims, that he not only told Comey about his decision to authorize the disclosure, but that Comey thought it was a ‘good’ idea for McCabe to have taken that action,” the report states, noting that at the time McCabe authorized the disclosure and says he informed Comey, the issue of his recusal from the investigation was being discussed internally.

According to Horowitz’s report, McCabe also gave conflicting accounts to the inspector general’s investigators, at one point correcting a testimony to say that he believed he “may have authorized” the two officials to speak to Barrett, after he learned that the IG had texts messages that would “enable the OIG to soon learn the truth.”

McCabe’s lawyer in his statement said that “at all times, [McCabe] told the truth to the best of his ability.”

“This allegation is built on the shaky foundation of the allegations that he lacked candor in his dealings with Director Comey, [the FBI’s Inspection Division], and the OIG. What is entirely missing from the OIG’s report is any evidence of a motive for Mr. McCabe to do anything but tell the truth about this matter."

The main finding in the report — lack of candor related to the Wall Street Journal disclosures — was already publicly known, although it fleshes out further details.

It reveals that McCabe on Nov. 1 — just days before the election — recused himself from both the Clinton Foundation investigation and the investigation into Clinton’s private email server, which had been effectively reopened just days before.

At that point, according to the IG report, Comey had excluded McCabe from a phone call related to a new tranche of Clinton emails found days before the election, “out of an abundance of caution because of appearance issues” following the story about McCabe’s wife.

In a separate letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyJustice IG says report doesn’t assess ‘credibility’ of Russian probe DOJ watchdog probing Comey's memos, will release another report Grassley demands details on Comey's use of personal email MORE (R-Iowa), Horowitz also revealed that his investigation into McCabe’s misconduct did not originate as part of the IG’s broader review into department decision-making during the 2016 election.

Instead, Horowitz says, it arose from a referral from the FBI’s Inspection Division, an internal watchdog responsible for maintaining the integrity of its investigations.

McCabe was dismissed by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Laura Ingraham: Migrant child detention centers 'essentially summer camps' Senate chaplain offers prayer 'as children are being separated from their parents' MORE in March after the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility found that the 20-year veteran made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and "lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions."

President TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE immediately celebrated the report on Twitter, tweeting that the findings are 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!”

Republican lawmakers like Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate probes FBI's heavy-handed use of redactions to obstruct congressional investigators Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R-Wis.) and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsKey conservative presses for shield law after seizure of NYT reporter’s records The Memo: Trump's legal troubles pile up despite release of IG report Wray defends FBI after 'sobering' watchdog report MORE (R-N.C.) followed suit, publicly praising Horowitz's report.

Olivia Beavers contributed.