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 McCabeTop Trump security adviser Tom Bossert resigning To justify McCabe firing, DOJ watchdog report must provide answers House Judiciary conservatives infuriated DOJ missed subpoena deadline 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 ClintonGeraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president Five things to know from Comey’s new book Comey in new book: ‘I’m sorry’ I couldn’t better explain decision on Clinton probe 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 ComeyGOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations Geraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president 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 GrassleyGOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe Trump signals support for changing summer ethanol policy Schumer: Mueller protection bill would pass by ‘very large majority’ 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 SessionsBackpage.com pleads guilty to human trafficking Trump launches task force to evaluate Postal Service operations Overnight Health Care: Opioid distributors summoned before Congress | Judge sets trial date in massive opioid lawsuit | Senators press DOJ to stop blocking medical marijuana 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 TrumpTrump: I’d only rejoin Pacific trade pact if deal was ‘substantially better’ GOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations 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!”

http://thehill.com

IG releases report faulting fired FBI official McCabe

The Department of Justice’s inspector general concluded that fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeTop Trump security adviser Tom Bossert resigning To justify McCabe firing, DOJ watchdog report must provide answers House Judiciary conservatives infuriated DOJ missed subpoena deadline 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 ClintonGeraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president Five things to know from Comey’s new book Comey in new book: ‘I’m sorry’ I couldn’t better explain decision on Clinton probe 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 ComeyGOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations Geraldo Rivera: Comey is the reason Trump is president 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 GrassleyGOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe Trump signals support for changing summer ethanol policy Schumer: Mueller protection bill would pass by ‘very large majority’ 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 SessionsBackpage.com pleads guilty to human trafficking Trump launches task force to evaluate Postal Service operations Overnight Health Care: Opioid distributors summoned before Congress | Judge sets trial date in massive opioid lawsuit | Senators press DOJ to stop blocking medical marijuana 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 TrumpTrump: I’d only rejoin Pacific trade pact if deal was ‘substantially better’ GOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations 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!”

http://thehill.com

Ryan endorses McCarthy for speaker

Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan are pictured. | Getty Images

Speaker Paul Ryan’s endorsement may not matter much in the long-run; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (left) bigger problem is at the far-right end of the conference. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to succeed him as speaker in an interview set to run Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

The Wisconsin Republican told NBC’s Chuck Todd that “we all think that Kevin is the right person” and predicted a “seamless transition.” He said McCarthy, who failed to garner the votes in his 2015 speaker bid, would be able to muster the needed support this time because he’s been instrumental in passing GOP priorities over the past year.

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“What’s changed is we have gotten a lot done. What’s changed is we came together as a team in 2015. We put together an agenda. We ran on that agenda. We won the election. We are executing that agenda. We are getting it done,” Ryan said. “So what’s changed is this leadership team has come together and gelled, this conference has been unified, and we’ve actually moved the ball and gotten things done.”

Ryan’s endorsement may not matter much in the long-run; McCarthy’s bigger problem is at the far-right end of the conference. Conservatives blocked McCarthy from the post last time around and are already signaling that they’ll be willing to do the same unless he cuts a deal and empowers the group.

House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan declared that he was considering his own speakership bid on Friday morning, all but ensuring that McCarthy would not have the votes if the election were held today.

Ryan also said he still intended to serve out his term as speaker, arguing that a leadership race now would be a “needless distraction” from trying to keep the House GOP majority.

Ryan emphasized that his entire leadership team would endorse McCarthy, even though House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has not done so yet. The Louisiana Republican is interested in the post but has said he would not run against his more senior colleague.

“So Steve Scalise — it’s your understanding that he believes that Kevin McCarthy should be the heir apparent, whether it’s leader or speaker?” Todd asked.

“That’s right,” Ryan responded. “That’s right.

Asked if he would endorse McCarthy on Thursday, Scalise said it was too early to discuss endorsements.

http://www.politico.com

Citigroup and Apollo defend Kushner family loans

Jared Kushner is pictured. | Getty Images

Jared Kushner’s family business ties to Citigroup and Apollo Global Management are more extensive than initially reported, Democratic lawmakers said. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jared Kushner’s family business ties to Citigroup and Apollo Global Management are more extensive than initially reported, Democratic lawmakers said on Friday.

Kushner Companies is more than $600 million in debt to Citi and owes Apollo more than $250 million, the lawmakers said, releasing letters from the two companies. The loans were originated around the time Kushner was named a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law.

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In letters to the companies on Friday, lawmakers asked for more detail on the companies’ financial ties to Kushner. The letters were signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In March 20 letters to the lawmakers, Citi and Apollo pushed back on the narrative that Kushner’s family business had received financing after Kushner met at the White House with top executives from the companies, a story first reported by The New York Times.

Kushner sat down with Citi’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, on March 3, 2017, at Corbat’s request. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss trade policy, “given Mr. Kushner’s leadership role in the NAFTA negotiations,” Citi wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The Kushner family has been a client of Citi for decades,” and a March 31, 2017, loan to the family was “completely appropriate,” Citi’s general counsel, Rohan Weerasinghe, wrote.

Kushner also met several times last year with Apollo co-founder Joshua Harris just months before Kushner Companies closed on a $184 million loan with Apollo.

“Josh Harris and Jared Kushner never discussed any loans to Kushner Companies,” a lawyer for Apollo wrote in the March 20 letter. “To our knowledge Jared Kushner did not play any role on behalf of Kushner Companies” with respect to the loan.

http://www.politico.com

NY prosecutors blast Cohen request on seized evidence

New York prosecutors on Friday excoriated President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I’d only rejoin Pacific trade pact if deal was ‘substantially better’ GOP unveils mock cover of Comey book with ‘ego’ attack NY Daily News cover hits Trump over Comey book revelations MORE‘s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, over his request to screen information seized by FBI agents during Monday raids on his office, home and hotel room.

In Friday’s court filing, the prosecutors confirm for the first time that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months.

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Assistant U.S. attorneys said there was no legal justification for a defense attorney to receive seized evidence and produce to prosecutors what he personally believes isn’t covered by attorney–client privilege.

“Cohen now seeks the extraordinary remedy of preventing the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York … from reviewing lawfully obtained evidence of Cohen’s alleged criminal conduct,” the filing reads.

“This request is unprecedented and is not supported by case law in this Circuit,” the filing continues.

The information gathered Monday, the attorneys say, largely relates to Cohen’s own business dealings and not his communications with Trump.

“The information gathered thus far in the investigation suggests that the overwhelming majority of evidence seized during the searches will not be privileged material, but rather will relate to Cohen’s business dealings,” the filing reads.

Trump has sharply criticized the FBI over Monday’s raid, which the president called a “disgrace” and an “attack” on the country.

Trump and his supporters argue that the raid on his attorney’s office violated attorney–client privilege, despite criminal code provisions for obtaining evidence from attorneys who are themselves under investigation for criminal activity.

“Attorney–client privilege is dead!” the president tweeted Tuesday.

Earlier Friday, Cohen had filed a request for a temporary restraining order on the evidence. 

In their response, the U.S. attorneys note that Cohen is “being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.”

They also say “Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump.”

Cohen has not responded to the allegations against him and has not yet been charged with a crime.

Cohen is reportedly under investigation for bank fraud and campaign finance violations over his $130,000 payment in 2016 to an adult-film star who claims to have had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006.

Trump denies the affair and knowledge of the payment at the time, which Cohen has backed up and said did not constitute an unreported donation to the Trump campaign.

News of Monday’s raid and Trump’s subsequent comments have reignited suspicion that the president may be preparing to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe Pompeo faces difficult panel vote after grilling by Dems Overnight Cybersecurity: Pompeo pressed on cyber plans at State | Equifax hit with new lawsuit over breach | Uber expands privacy settlement with FTC MORE.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this week that while Trump is not making plans to fire the special counsel, “he certainly believes that he has the power to do so.”

The raids reportedly came after a referral from Mueller’s office, though the U.S. attorney’s investigation is separate from the special counsel’s probe.

http://thehill.com