Watchdog report reveals Comey deputy's lack of candor

Watchdog report reveals Comey deputy's lack of candor
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My former employer, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG), just issued its long-awaited and eviscerating misconduct report concerning the allegations of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Brendan Gleeson lands Trump role in CBS miniseries based on Comey memoir Judge tells DOJ to charge McCabe or drop investigation MORE leaking law enforcement sensitive information to the Wall Street Journal in October 2016.

A few thoughts come to mind. One of them is a story from the Bible — the one where Peter denies knowing Christ three times. The OIG report is clear and unambiguous. McCabe was interviewed four times, once by the FBI’s own inspection unit and three times under oath by the OIG, two of those interviews being recorded. And three times, McCabe disavowed being the author of the unauthorized leak to the WSJ. This was Andy McCabe’s story and he was sticking to it. I can imagine what McCabe was thinking, "If I can just keep my story straight, I might be able to get away with this.”

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McCabe, like the bad guys he used to put behind bars, had some time to reflect on what he had done and said to his own Internal Affairs and to the OIG. He knew he was between a rock and a hard place. There was an avalanche of evidence showing that he had indeed been the source of the unauthorized leak — too many text messages, emails, and the testimony of the special prosecutor and the assistant director for public affairs who had been directly involved with the leak.

 

The walls were tumbling down around him. Time to reconstruct his story. He returned to the OIG and said something to the effect of, “You know, I’ve had time to think about it. In fact, I did disclose that information to the WSJ.”

Like the bad guys that he used to put behind bars, McCabe began to minimize, justify and prevaricate over his actions.

And like the bad guys that he used to put behind bars, McCabe was now on the slippery slope that we, in law enforcement, have always been cautioned about.

Andy McCabe committed the most cardinal sin of the FBI — he lacked candor. Did I mention that he even lied and misled his boss, Jim Comey? Imagine the two of them at their Oct. 31, 2017 meeting which is highlighted in the report; they are both musing over the WSJ article. In Comey’s words, he is concerned about the ramifications of an unauthorized leak. Instead, McCabe is alleged to have exclaimed, “Can you believe this crap!” Comey bluntly told the investigators, “The FBI does not disclose a criminal investigation anonymously sourced in a newspaper.”

Perhaps even more disturbing, is that after he had leaked the information to the WSJ, McCabe turned on his own people in the FBI –the Assistant Directors (ADIC) in New York and Washington — and berated them for leaks he implied were coming from their respective offices. Taking it a step further, McCabe told his Washington ADIC to “get his house in order.”

I found this narrative of the OIG report to be “mildly nauseating.”

You have to feel sorry for someone like Andy McCabe. I, too, began my career with the FBI. So, it stings to see “one of our own” fly too close to the sun, like the mythical Icarus, and go down in flames. Andy was a “blue flamer,” ambitious, handsome, striving for the next promotion, the FBI poster boy. In fact, he was married to a woman who had just run and lost in a high stakes election in Virginia.

Truly, they were a power couple within Washington, D.C. circles. But in the end, it came down to Andy’s pride and how he was going to “correct the record” about himself to a journalist. The report succinctly refers to this premeditated, self-initiated action as acting in a manner “designed to advance his personal interests.”

As someone who has had oversight of the internal affairs of the DOJ OIG, I saw employees of the Department of Justice lose their jobs by exhibiting this lack of candor, by lying and misleading fellow investigators. I never understood it and I never got used to it — by just admitting what they knew to be true, they might have easily salvaged their career, mitigated corrective action or avoided a criminal record. It was true then and it is true now — when you lie to law enforcement, it’s over.

Still, there was a shred of candor left in Andrew McCabe when he recently reflected, “Not in my worst nightmares did I ever dream my FBI career would end this way.”

You really have to believe him.

Kenneth Strange served the FBI as a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, New Jersey and as Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General in Los Angeles. He is presently the vice president of business development for an international investigative services company.