McCabe Says He Was ‘Shocked and Disappointed’ by ‘Numerous Errors’ in Trump-Russia Collusion Probe
How do you feel about the errors in the FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion probe?
What’s the story?
- Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a hearing about the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
- McCabe’s testimony touched on problems with surveillance applications executed as part of the Russia probe, the investigation of Michael Flynn, and whether his agency acted on a referral from the CIA about Hillary Clinton’s plan to smear Donald Trump over alleged Russia ties during their presidential campaign.
Steele Dossier & FISA Abuse
- In his opening statement, McCabe defended the premise of the Russia probe as justified from the FBI’s perspective, but admitted there were numerous errors in the process:
“I was shocked and disappointed at the errors and mistakes that the OIG found. To me, any material misrepresentation or error in a FISA application is unacceptable, period.”
- McCabe was responsible for initiating surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page for allegedly conspiring with Russians, which he did on the recommendation of Agent Peter Strzok. Strzok was later dismissed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and fired from the FBI following the revelation of anti-Trump text messages vowing to stop Trump from becoming president.
- Dept. of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz found 17 major errors and omissions in the Page surveillance applications. The FBI was rebuked by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for failing to disclose exculpatory information in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act FISA applications.
- McCabe told Graham that he was unaware Carter Page had been previously approved by the CIA as an operational contact. As part of the ongoing Durham probe, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to making a false statement by altering an email from the CIA confirming that Carter Page was a source for the agency to make it appear the email was stating that Page was “not a source” for the CIA.
- The falsified email was included in the FBI’s third and final FISA application, after the exculpatory information was omitted from the initial application. Information from the Steele dossier also played a “central and essential role” in applications to surveil Page despite footnotes showing the FBI was aware it may have been compromised by Russian disinformation and its primary sub-source was a suspected Russian agent.
- Several key figures have previously expressed regret at having approved the FISA applications. Comey, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have each said they wouldn’t have signed off on had they been aware of the application’s reliance on the flawed Steele dossier and its omission of exculpatory information.
- McCabe joined them on Tuesday by testifying that in hindsight, he would not have signed off on the Page surveillance, and admitted he “signed a package that included numerous factual errors or failed to include information that should’ve been brought to the court.”
Flynn & the Logan Act
- McCabe was asked who directed Peter Strzok to keep the investigation into General Mike Flynn open in January 2017 and replied, “I don’t remember.” The FBI’s investigation of Flynn began in 2016 as a counterintelligence probe, which the agency considered closing after it found “no derogatory information” but continued as an investigation into possible violations of the Logan Act.
- The Logan Act is an obscure law enacted in 1799 that has only been used in two criminal prosecutions, neither of which yielded a conviction. Critics contend that the Logan Act is an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment right to free speech, including speech with members of foreign governments.
- The continuation of the FBI’s investigation under the auspices of a potential Logan Act violation led to an interview between FBI agents and Flynn on January 24, 2017. Comey recollected in December 2019 that he called for the FBI-Flynn interview, and a senior FBI official’s handwritten note described their thinking about the interview: “What’s our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”.
- Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty to making false statements in the interview about his contacts with Kislyak, but has sought to retract that plea with the support of the DOJ. The DOJ wants to drop the charges on the grounds that the FBI interview was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) told McCabe that according to handwritten notes McCabe’s FBI colleague Bill Priestap took during a January 24th meeting McCabe attended prior to the FBI’s Flynn interview, they discussed whether the agents would try to get Flynn to admit to violating the Logan Act so he could be referred for prosecution to the DOJ. After McCabe repeatedly said in the hearing that the FBI didn’t initiate its probe on the basis of a potential Logan Act violation, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said:
“Mr. McCabe, you’re being nonresponsive to the question. I didn’t ask about the initiation. The Logan Act was a late pretext that was adopted after you investigated him and couldn’t find anything and the career investigators recommended closing it.”
Declassified CIA Docs
- Former CIA Director John Brennan briefed President Barack Obama in 2016 about Russian intelligence gathered by the CIA regarding an alleged plan agreed to by Hillary Clinton to instigate a scandal connecting Donald Trump to Russia. Brennan’s handwritten notes detailed:
“We’re getting additional insight into Russian activities from [REDACTED]... Cite alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 28 July of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.”
- In September 2016, a CIA memo regarding an investigatory lead in Crossfire Hurricane was sent to Comey and Strzok to inform them about:
““[REDACTED] An exchange [REDACTED] discussing US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering US elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.”
- Graham asked McCabe if he knew about the memo, to which McCabe replied, “I was not aware of that memorandum.” McCabe’s testimony echoes Comey’s from a hearing in September, when Comey said of the investigatory lead about the alleged Clinton plan to vilify Trump, “That doesn’t ring any bells with me,” and “doesn’t sound familiar.”
Who is Andrew McCabe?
- McCabe was a career FBI employee who was appointed deputy director of the FBI in January 2016. When the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was opened on July 31, 2016, McCabe was briefed on the investigation and authorized an investigation into whether Sessions lied to Congress about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak (the investigation was later closed).
- During the Trump administration, McCabe alleged that he had a serious conversation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, which Rosenstein insisted was a joke taken out of context by McCabe. When James Comey was terminated as director of the FBI on May 9, 2017, McCabe became acting director of the agency and initiated an obstruction of justice investigation into the president’s decision to fire Comey, which was ultimately taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Mueller probe found no evidence of collusion or a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and left it up to Congress to decide whether it would pursue impeachment for obstruction of justice.
- McCabe was fired 26 hours before he would become eligible for retirement in March 2018 after the DOJ Inspector General and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility found McCabe improperly leaked information related to a probe of the Clinton Foundation to The Wall Street Journal in 2016 and that he lacked candor when interviewed by FBI agents about it on several occasions. Federal prosecutors and the IG recommended McCabe be indicted for his actions, but the DOJ declined to pursue criminal charges.
- McCabe alleges that his termination and the Inspector General’s findings were politically motivated, and is suing for reinstatement to his job and eligibility for pension benefits. He is currently a contributor on CNN.
- Declassified CIA Docs Show Brennan Briefed Obama on Alleged Clinton Plan for ‘Stirring Up’ Trump-Russia Scandal (10/7/20)
- Former FBI Director James Comey Calls Carter Page Surveillance ‘Sloppy’ and ‘Embarrassing’ (9/30/20)
- Declassified Summary Shows FBI Knew Primary Steele Dossier Sub-Source Was a ‘National Security Threat’ and Suspected Russian Agent (9/25/20)
- Former FBI Lawyer to Plead Guilty in Durham’s Probe Into Origins of Russia Collusion Investigation (8/14/20)
- Rosenstein Testifies He Would Not Have Approved FISA Warrant Application for Trump Aide If He Had Known of Faulty Evidence (6/3/20)
- IG Report Finds 17 Significant Errors & Omissions by FBI in Trump Campaign Surveillance, But No Political Bias (12/9/19)
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: FBI via Flickr / Public Domain)
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