Last month, Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, 26 hours before the deputy FBI director would have qualified for his pension. The official cause of McCabe’s dismissal was that he had improperly disclosed sensitive information to the news media in the fall of 2016, and then lied to other investigators about having done so. But McCabe insisted that the move was crassly political — the Trump administration was simply trying to discredit him, as part of a broader attempt to obstruct and delegitimize the special counsel’s investigation.
In his response to McCabe’s firing, the president appeared to confirm this charge. Instead of soberly citing findings from the inspector general’s report that turned up McCabe’s (alleged) malfeasance, Trump opted to denounce McCabe for his ties to James Comey and an ill-defined conspiracy within the highest ranks of the FBI.
On Friday, the inspector general’s report that Trump declined to reference became public. It asserts that McCabe personally instructed his aides to provide information to a Wall Street Journal reporter, who was writing an article on internal divisions within the FBI over how to proceed with a probe into the alleged financial improprieties of the Clinton Foundation. Subsequently, McCabe led FBI Director James Comey to believe that he had not approved such media disclosures. And McCabe misled other investigators in a similar fashion.
The report claims that even if McCabe had been forthright about his actions, his disclosure still would have violated the FBI’s media policy. McCabe disputes that finding, saying that he had full authority to disclose such information. He does not, however, deny that he did in fact authorize FBI personnel to speak with the Wall Street Journal in October 2016. Rather, he insists that he did not wittingly mislead investigators about that subject — ostensibly suggesting that the misimpressions cited in the inspector general’s report were the products of miscommunication, not mendacity.
The report on McCabe’s conduct is part of a broader inspector general’s investigation into the Justice Department’s handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election.
It it worth noting: The notion that McCabe was fired for nefarious reasons is in no way inconsistent with the inspector general’s findings. The Trump administration does not have a zero-tolerance policy on misconduct among Executive branch appointees. Scott Pruitt still has a job. There is no question that McCabe’s “lack of candor” would never have cost him his position, if Trump did not regard him as a “deep state” enemy. And if there were any doubt that the administration is trying to exploit McCabe’s misconduct to discredit the investigation into Trump’s firing of James Comey, the president extinguished it shortly after the inspector general’s report landed.