An internal FBI report shows McCabe and Comey had differing accounts
The internal report was the grounds for McCabe's firing earlier this month
The internal FBI report that served as grounds for the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe includes key testimony from his former boss that shows a discrepancy with McCabe’s public statements, according to multiple sources familiar with the report.
Former FBI Director James Comey told internal investigators at the Justice Department that he could not recall McCabe telling him about having authorized FBI officials to talk to a reporter about an ongoing investigation, the sources said.
Comey’s comments to the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which were later included as part of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility report on McCabe that prompted his firing earlier this month, put him at odds with the statements McCabe has made about authorizing FBI officials to provide information to the Wall Street Journal in an October 2016 story about FBI and Justice Department tensions over an ongoing investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe has publicly maintained that he was in a position to authorize the other FBI officials speaking with the reporter and that Comey was aware McCabe had done it.
“It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter,” McCabe said in a statement the night he was fired.
Another source familiar with the matter argued that the discrepancy between the two accounts is more about the fact that they are recalling the interaction differently than a dispute about what took place, saying both were acting in “good faith.”
“They recall it differently,” the source said. “Andy thinks in good faith he told him, and Comey in good faith says he wasn’t told.”
The source added that “the notion that the two guys are pitted against each other is crazy.”
The OPR report, according to one source who was briefed, stated that Comey held a staff meeting on October 31, 2016, where he warned the bureau about how damaging the leaks were for an ongoing investigation. Comey, the report states, recalled that McCabe had denied authorizing FBI officials speak to the Journal, the source said.
The new details from the internal FBI report on McCabe, which has not been released publicly and CNN has not reviewed, add to the complicated picture that’s emerging amid conflicting testimony related to McCabe’s firing.
The Justice Department has made the report available for both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to review, according to another source familiar with the matter.
McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, accused lawmakers of “attempting to selectively and unfairly leak pieces of information from a report that is not public.”
“One thing is clear: Mr. McCabe never misled Director Comey,” Bromwich said. “Director Comey’s memory of these interactions was equivocal and speculative, while Mr. McCabe’s recollection is clear, unequivocal and supported by documentary evidence. Director Comey has no specific recollection of what Mr. McCabe told him, while Mr. McCabe remembers the two discussed the article before and after its publication.”
Bromwich added that emails exchanged between McCabe and Comey show that McCabe “advised Director Comey that he was working with colleagues at the FBI to correct inaccuracies before the stories were published, and that they remained in contact through the weekend while the interactions with the reporter continued. In short, the evidence falls far short of proving a ‘lack of candor.’”
CNN has not reviewed those emails and a lawyer for Comey declined to comment.
In addition to the personnel report on McCabe, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz is expected to release his report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation in the coming weeks.
The OPR and IG reports on McCabe led to his firing for “lack of candor” earlier this month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a dismissal that occurred less than two days before his planned retirement and denied him certain retirement benefits.
The discrepancy between the Comey and McCabe statements was not the only instance of McCabe’s alleged lack of candor.
In his statement explaining McCabe’s firing, Sessions said: “Both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor − including under oath − on multiple occasions.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, told Fox News that the OPR report shows McCabe had lied four times: to internal federal investigators, Comey and twice to the inspector general.
The OPR report states that McCabe was interviewed last May by the FBI’s investigative division about the Journal story where he denied approving of FBI officials speaking to the Wall Street Journal, according to the source briefed on the report. A couple months later, McCabe denied the matter again to the inspector general. But he followed up with the inspector general in August 2017 to declare he may have allowed FBI officials to speak with the newspaper, the source said.
In his statement following his firing, McCabe said that “when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.”
McCabe was then subsequently re-interviewed in August by the FBI’s investigative division, and again on November 29, 2017, by the Justice Department’s inspector general.