The Andrew McCabe Referral Is Unsurprising — and Probably Justified

I’ve been traveling a shit-ton in recent weeks (and still am, in a lovely gorgeous undisclosed location). So it wasn’t until a flight today that I read the DOJ IG Report on Andrew McCabe’s lack of candor about confirming an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Having finally read it, though, I’m thoroughly unsurprised that DOJ made a criminal referral. Indeed, given the standards FBI holds subjects of investigation to, I think the referral was necessary to avoid the perception that the top FBI brass could get away with behavior that results in criminal charges (for people including George Papadopoulos and Mike Flynn) all the time.

Because boy did Deputy and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe use a lot of the tricks that defendants (try, usually unsuccessfully) to use to get out of lying.

Andrew McCabe was investigated for screwing Hillary over

Before I get into the report, let’s make it clear what McCabe is accused of (because the right wing gets this wrong seemingly every time). As part of an investigation into several leaks, McCabe was interviewed repeatedly about this article by Devlin Barrett, specifically this passage.

According to a person familiar with the probes, on Aug. 12, a senior Justice Department official called Mr. McCabe to voice his displeasure at finding that New York FBI agents were still openly pursuing the Clinton Foundation probe during the election season. Mr. McCabe said agents still had the authority to pursue the issue as long as they didn’t use overt methods requiring Justice Department approvals.

The Justice Department official was “very pissed off,” according to one person close to Mr. McCabe, and pressed him to explain why the FBI was still chasing a matter the department considered dormant. Others said the Justice Department was simply trying to make sure FBI agents were following longstanding policy not to make overt investigative moves that could be seen as trying to influence an election. Those rules discourage investigators from making any such moves before a primary or general election, and, at a minimum, checking with anticorruption prosecutors before doing so.

“Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” Mr. McCabe asked, according to people familiar with the conversation. After a pause, the official replied, “Of course not,” these people said.

The passage, coming in a story on the reopening of the investigation into Hillary’s emails, effectively confirmed the separate investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

After denying it in two interviews, he admitted in a third and fourth (though continued to lie about his transparency about the fact) that he had authorized Lisa Page to provide the background and the quote to Barrett.

Effectively, then, McCabe admitted to confirming 10 days before the election that there was a second investigation into Hillary Clinton. DOJ IG (and the FBI witnesses they consulted) concluded that McCabe did so to protect his own reputation, not to reassure the public that Hillary wasn’t above scrutiny. And they dismissed the notion it was a sanctioned confirmation, both because it was not discussed beforehand and carefully messaged, as such confirmations always are, and because it was anonymous.

So for all that Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, want to make this into a real scandal hurting Republicans, it’s the opposite. McCabe is accused of screwing over Hillary to protect his own reputation.

Signs the report was rushed

I find the report itself very credible; it makes a very damning case against McCabe.

But there are a few details of it that deserve mention, because they demonstrate that this report is just part of the larger report that will be released next month.

First, there is no methodology or request for comment from the bureau (though it includes rebuttals from McCabe), which are both standard features on IG Reports. The methodology would be really useful to see because it would provide a few more dates about when a draft was finalized, that might provide more information on how this came to be released early.

Then there’s a redaction in this passage.

Both public reporting and redaction matching suggests it has to be DAD — that is, Peter Strzok. Other references to him are not redacted. For some reason, and I suspect it’s an investigative one, the FBI didn’t want it known that he was party to the decision of forcing McCabe off the email investigation in late October, just days before the WSJ story in question.

That (and one other detail I get to below) suggests the FBI is protecting the details on Strzok and Page that will show up in the larger report.

So this report was, as public reporting has suggested, pulled out of the larger one and packaged up for February release.

That said, I’m not as convinced that served the nefarious purpose of serving up Andrew McCabe to Donald Trump’s voracious firing appetite. Rather, I suspect that’s when they reached the conclusion that McCabe’s behavior reached a level requiring criminal referral. And while I agree the circumstances surrounding McCabe’s firing still stink to high hell, if they had already made the decision to refer McCabe for criminal investigation, the timing, and the necessity of firing him, do make more sense.

This case really is about lying to FBI Agents

In the same way the Republican claim McCabe hurt Trump is bullshit, another public claim — one favored by some Democrats — is that this is simply a he-said he-said between McCabe and Comey.

While one conversation between them — an October 31, 2016 conversation where leaks came up and McCabe did not offer up that he was behind the WSJ passage — is included in the allegations, the other three, far more compelling, allegations include sworn conversations (the latter two taped) with FBI Inspection Division and Inspector General Agents.

And as I said, this is not — as McCabe has spun it — about an authorized confirmation of an investigation. It is true he gave permission for these conversations. But he did not go through the normal process before confirming an investigation (which wouldn’t have been approved but if it had would have resulted in an on-the-record comment). It’s likely McCabe, out of fury, just fucked up. But he did authorize the anonymous leak of stuff that shouldn’t have been released.

I won’t get into the evidence laid out (other than to say that it is convincing). But the report suggests McCabe didn’t come clean to Comey in October, and then in two subsequent interviews tried to create a cover story, only to discover that the investigation into Page and Strzok would reveal his deceit, at which point he tried to clean up his story in a way that wouldn’t put him in legal jeopardy.

Un-fucking-believably, as McCabe tried to get out of the problems he created he used three dodges often used by criminal defendants when complaining about FBI investigative tactics.

McCabe “can’t recall” diversion one

Along the way, McCabe  created two diversions to deflect blame (the IG Report doesn’t focus on this, but I find these actions to be among McCabe’s most reprehensible for the way they exposed others to disciplinary and legal jeopardy).

First, in the wake of the Barrett story that he was a second-hand anonymous source for, McCabe called the heads of the NY and DC office to bitch them out for leaking.

According to NY-ADIC’s contemporaneous October 30 calendar notes and testimony to the OIG, McCabe called NY-ADIC on Sunday, October 30, at 5:11 p.m., to express concerns over leaks from the FBI’s New York Field Office in the October 30 WSJ article. NY-ADIC told the OIG that McCabe was “ticked about leaks” in the article on the CF Investigation, but NY-ADIC “pushed back” a little to note that New York agents were not privy to some of the information in the article.

Also according to NY-ADIC’s calendar notes, as well as his testimony to the OIG, NY-ADIC spoke to EAD and other FBI managers after his call with McCabe to voice concerns “about getting yelled at about this stuff” when he was supposed to be dealing with EAD on Clinton Foundation issues because of his understanding that McCabe had recused himself from the matter.

W-ADIC told the OIG that he received a call from McCabe regarding the October 30 WSJ article and that McCabe admonished him regarding leaks in the article. According to W-ADIC, McCabe told him to “get his house in order.”

McCabe told us that he did not recall calling either NY-ADIC or W-ADIC to reprimand them for leaks in the October 30 WSJ article.

He did so with the NY-ADIC (probably justifiably) after a second Barrett story.

I believe the first of these scoldings served the purpose of creating a paper trail making it look like other offices were responsible for the Barrett leak.

With regards to both of these hypocritical conversations, in which McCabe pulled rank to yell at people for doing what he had himself done, he claimed afterwards not to recall the conversations in question (and bizarrely for a lifetime FBI Agent, didn’t take the notes that his counterparties did).

I think the first one is of particular concern, as by blaming the field offices, McCabe was deflecting from his own role. And like a long line of high level officials before him, he got away with it by claiming he didn’t recall these conversations.

McCabe blames diversion two on the perennial two-Agent, no recording complaint

McCabe also created a diversion in his first interview, with the Inspection Division (which, because of rank, he knew could not investigate him personally). He told them, falsely, that he had told a bunch of other people about the conversation described in the WSJ, leading INSD to believe there could be any number of suspects.

INSD-SSA1 further told the OIG that McCabe stated during the interview that he had related the account of the August 12 call to others numerous times, leaving INSD-SSA1 with the impression that INSD-SSA1 would “not get anywhere by asking” McCabe how many people could have known about what appeared to be a private conversation between him and PADAG. INSD-SSA1 told us that he didn’t need to take many notes during the interview because, at that point, he viewed McCabe as “the victim” of the leak and McCabe had told the INSD agents that he did not know how this happened. INSD-SSA1 also told us that the whole interaction was short, maybe 5 to 7 minutes, and flowing because McCabe was seemingly the victim and claimed he did not know who did it. INSD-SSA1 said that McCabe’s information could be summarized in one paragraph in his draft statement.

This led them to give up their investigation, for a period. When they sent him their version of the statements he had made to get him to sign and swear to them, he just blew off the request (he was Acting Director at this point, so he admittedly had tons of other things to do, but also real reason to believe his seniority would help him avoid any trouble for his actions).

When McCabe ultimately came clean about his role in this affair, he tried to suggest that the INSD version of what happened was not accurate (as defendants sometimes do, often for good reason, when an FBI 302 leaves out key details). Remarkably though, this guy who must have seen this ploy hundreds of times in his life and knew that FBI Agents always move in twos, suggested that the specific discussion involved just one of the Agents present.

McCabe also asserted that the May 9 meeting concerned an unrelated leak matter and that the discussion about the October 30 article occurred near the end of the meeting when “one of the people on that team pulled me aside and asked me a question about the Wall Street Journal article.” He elaborated by stating that as the INSD agents were “walking out of my office into the hallway, and [INSD Section Chief] kind of grabbed me by the arm and said, hey, let me ask you about something else.” McCabe said that he and INSD-Section Chief were still in his office, he thought standing, during the conversation but that the other two INSD agents (McCabe recalled there being three INSD agents present that day, not two) were outside his office. He said INSD-Section Chief showed him the October 30 WSJ article at that time and asked him “a question or two about it. And that was it. It was a very quick exchange.”

If it had indeed happened this way, it would have made the conversation other than investigative, and might have gotten him off the hook for lying.

Except that SSA-1 took notes, so was obviously present, and INSD made McCabe initial the WSJ article confirming he had read it.

Nevertheless, this is, ultimately, the same complaint criminal defendants make all the time about the FBI’s approach to interviews.

McCabe mounts a Miranda defense

Perhaps most un-fucking-believably, McCabe mounted a Miranda defense to excuse the fact that he lied when he was first asked about the Page-Strzok texts. Effectively, he said that he had an explicit agreement that OIG would not ask him any questions that might put him in legal jeopardy.

In response to review a draft of this report, counsel for McCabe argued that, in asking McCabe about the October 27-30 texts between Special Counsel and DAD regarding the WSJ article, the OIG engaged in improper and unethical conduct, and violated an allegedly explicit agreement with McCabe that when he was interviewed by the OIG on July 28 he would not be questioned outside the presence of counsel with respect to matters for which he was being investigated. McCabe provides no evidence in support of his claim, and based on the OIG’s review of the available evidence, including the transcript of McCabe’s recorded OIG interview on July 28 and the OIG’s contemporaneous notes, as described below, McCabe’s claim is contradicted by the investigative record.

As an initial matter, at the time of the July 28 interview, McCabe was not a subject of an OIG investigation of disclosures in the October 30 WSJ article, nor did the OIG suspect him of having been the source of an unauthorized disclosure of non-public information related to that article. The OIG did not open its investigation of McCabe concerning the WSJ article until August 31, after being informed by INSD that McCabe had provided INSD agents with information on August 18, 2017, that contradicted the information that he had provided to INSD agents on May 9.

Second, the OIG has no record that McCabe stated in advance of the July 28 interview that he was represented by counsel. Moreover, the recording of the July 28 interview shows that at no time did McCabe give any indication that he was represented by counsel. The transcript of the interview shows that the OIG informed McCabe, who has a law degree, that the interview was about “issues raised by the text messages” between Special Counsel and DAD, and that the OIG would not be asking McCabe questions about “other issues related to your recusal in the McAulliffe investigation . . . or any issues related to that.” McCabe responded “Okay” and did not articulate or request any further limitations on the questions he would answer. The OIG added that “This is a voluntary interview. What that means is that if you don’t want to answer a question, that’s fully within your rights.” That “will not be held against you . . . .” The recording of McCabe’s interview further demonstrates that the OIG was entirely solicitous of McCabe’s requests not to respond to certain questions. Towards the end of the interview, before beginning an area of questioning unrelated to Special Counsel/DAD texts or the WSJ article, the OIG prefaced his question to McCabe by stating “if you feel this is connected to the things that are making you uncomfortable, will you let me know?” McCabe responded, “Yes. Yeah, you can ask, I’ll let you . . . If I don’t feel comfortable going forward, I’ll let you know.” At a later point in the interview, after answering a number of questions unrelated to Special Counsel/DAD texts, McCabe expressed a preference for not answering further questions, and the OIG did not ask further questions on the topic. [my emphasis]

I mean, sure, OIG blew that excuse out of the water (and the rebuttal continued with further evidence this claim was bullshit). But when I was reading it I kept thinking “how many fucking times have you been the Agent giving the uneducated interviewee even less opportunity to invoke Miranda! Yet you fucked this up!?!?!”

Did McCabe coordinate his story with Page?

As noted, McCabe’s true undoing came when, in the course of the investigation into the treatment of Hillary, OIG discovered the Page-Strzok texts. McCabe was asked about them in the context of the Page-Strzok contacts, and realized (but lied in a sworn, recorded interview) that the texts disproved all his stories. That led him to correct his testimony to INSD, which then referred it to OIG so someone of the rank that could investigate McCabe could interview him.

Along the way, though, McCabe and Page had a conversation — one she subsequently copped to, but he did not.

McCabe denied that being shown the text messages on July 28 that indicated Special Counsel had spoken to Barrett caused him to change his account in order to protect Special Counsel. McCabe told the OIG that this “thinking process” was done “on my own” without talking to any FBI employees or reviewing past e-mails or text messages. He stated that he did not discuss the Devlin texts with Special Counsel after the July 28 interview. While Special Counsel told the OIG that following McCabe’s July 28 OIG interview, she and McCabe discussed her text messages, she said that McCabe did not discuss his OIG testimony about the WSJ article, or the WSJ article itself, at that time. Special Counsel stated that she and McCabe did not discuss “getting their stories straight” with respect to the WSJ article. Special Counsel told the OIG that the last time she spoke with McCabe about the WSJ article was in approximately October 2016 (when the article was published).

This was not included among the key lack of candor charges, but I suspect the prosecutor will test the veracity of this current operative story.

I get that the way McCabe was fired stinks. I get that McCabe may well be serving as cover for the Mueller interview.

But neither of those observations changes the fact that one of the most senior FBI executives tried all the tricks a lifetime of pursuing criminals would have familiarized him with, and he still blew it.

And because the FBI relies on false statements charges to conduct its interviews, I think the criminal referral is necessary.

56 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    i don’t know. i really don’t care much about mccabe one way or another, but the whole thing smells.

    1) trump was after mccabe from day 1 (with initial questions to mccabe in person about his wife’s political effort) with great intensity and repeatedly. and not for any leaking mccabe did.

    2) the ig’s report was said to be done extremely quickly for such reports. i am not saying it was inaccurate, just that the ig was clearly bowing to trump political pressure, reinforced by congressional republican pressure.

    3)  the entire charge seems to hinge on one episode of leaking about one event.

    is the outrage proportional to the crime? i don’t know, but i remember the outrage (faux and highly political i would say) that accompanied revelations clinton’s home server. imagine! she didn’t consider the national archives. imagine! she violated  rules for classified docs. looking back i think it may be possible for those so outraged to see how self-serving and trivial those arguments by her political opponents were.

    4) watching an ig genuflect to a tyrant-in-waiting (see history of southern governors ~1875-1965) is a worrisome thing. doj’s ig may be setting a trend for ig’s in other departments of government. we can watch and see.

    5) james comey has already shown us what happens when a turf-protecting bureaucrat bows to congressional pressure in the form of reprisals against his organization, in this case the fbi.


    certainly an issue worth examining closely, but, for my money, a tempest in a teapot smelling of vindictiveness placated by bureaucratic submissiveness.

    robert jackson, prosecutor, attorney general, and supreme court judge, warned, you can always find some law and some misconduct with which to charge a person with if you have the motivation to do so.

    let’s see if the ig system devolves-  i worry dissolves – into trump’s preferred system of political punishment.

    • orionATL says:

      using the law to launder political attacks on the political opposition.

      here is a summary from vox of the criminal (for god’s sake) referral from the doj ig regarding andrew mccabe:

      keep robert jackson’s injunction about prosecutorial judgement in mind.

      keep in mind as well the prosecution of former alabama democratic governor don segilman by the republican political mob operating in alabama (with help from karl christian rove). for example:

      segilman’s prosecution by federal doj prosecutors, upheld by federal appeals courts loaded with republican judges, opposed by 49 of 50 state attorney generals, was the first cannonade of the republican assault on political opponents employing the doj and the court system to launder, yes launder, political opposition thru the american federal justice system.

      keep in mind, too, that mccabe is just one of several targets. our president has simultaneously called on the doj to “go after” his 2016 opponent, hillary clinton. the doj is complying.

      trump factotum, congressman devin nunes, has demanded documents from the doj and, on the pretext of footdragging, has now issued a threat to impeach doj deputy rod rosenstein.

      get the picture.

      keep those old-timey southern governors in mind.

      • Rugger9 says:

        The Siegelman case is pure political prosecution, because before Don was convicted he was a serious threat to AL’s GOP.  Even though the actual quid pro quo was never proved, and since then the McDonnell case SCOTUS ruling obliterated the prosecution theory Siegelman still remains in jail, to the level of no release for visiting his dying wife.

        One of the things Obama will need to answer for is that he did not right this injustice.

    • orionATL says:

      i will add a #6 to my initial comment of 4/19@7:35.

      all of this microscopic evaluation of mccabe’s obfuscation or perjury (actually i suppose lying to the fbi -sounds like a song title – doin’ 10 yrs in folsom for lyin’ to the fbi) takes place in the context of:

      a) mccabe’s boss, attorney general jeff sessions, lied egregiously and repeatedly to the congress about his contact with russian officials. then he went and lied again about having lied (double jeopardy :) )

      b) mccabe’s boss of bosses (you’ll forgive my use of a maffia analogy), president donald trump, has been referred to as a serial liar by former fbi director comey. if comey had not said it first, i would have. recently i read (possibly here) that a new york maffioso who worked with trump said that trump would lie to you about the time of day. anecdotes aside, there is abundant public evidence that trump is a habitual liar.

      so in the context of two bosses who have lied egregiously to the american public, one of whom, the president, is a liar who has been relentlessly hounding mccabe for a year, mccabe has had his behavior put under a microscope by the very honorable doj ig who ruled that one event, involving one reporter, merited criminal charges for lying.

      can anyone but donald trump and his fealty now believe that the doj ig represents anything but politically convenient justice? only in america!

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Since you arrived at your current secure, undisclosed location through Heathrow – avoiding its perfume and whisky boutiques in search of a working loo – I hope that you landed somewhere more relaxing than Salisbury.  Hampstead, Oxford, Cambridge or Dublin perhaps.

  3. Bob Conyers says:

    I hate to say it, but I agree that McCabe was acting shady. It seems to go back to the NYC FBI (or at least elements) putting their thumb on the scale for Trump, but that doesn’t let McCabe off the hook.

    It’s frustrating that only side is expected to play fair, but I still don’t think the good guys should sink to Trump’s level. Still, it’s going to be dreary hearing the both siders on NPR and the rest bending over to be supposedly even handed on this.

    • orionATL says:

      yes. shady.

      but the question for me is: was he selected as a easily sacrificed, uh, pig by the doj ig? what might be the major consequences of focusing on this one-story bit of shadiness? will other ig’s follow suit when trump trumpets his dislike of an individual bureaucrat in a position of leadership?

      ig’s, in my view, are notorious for dragging their feet when their bureaucracy might be the target of criticism as a consequence of an investigation they do. it should surprise no one that they would take the opposite tack – speed up and effectively exaggerate an investigation to protect their realm.

      • Trip says:

        Yeah. I find it impossible to separate the relentless public attacks by Trump and the hurried report and firing to kill his pension. It just doesn’t sit right, even though McCabe was shady in self-preservation-mode.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        It’s yet another reminder how much this country needs honest congressional oversight. I’m not saying that Elijah Cummings ought to make this into another Benghazi, but there’s a real value to having an oversight committee that can write a good letter and ask for the right documents, and I think bureaucracies work better in general when they know that they have to watch how they operate to keep it from being subject to an unwelcome inquiry, and possibly a subpoena — as long as the committee that has oversight actually cares about good government.

  4. bmaz says:

    Hmmm, which hunts are really witch hunts? The old boys from the Boston Field Office must be laughing their ass off that McCabe is getting rolled up for this.

    • orionATL says:


      “which hunts are witch hunts” – instant classic.

      the fight over foot-dragging on eric garner’s death (between main justice and the ny fbi) cost this country a lot.

  5. david_l says:

    Speaking of FBI:
    Does anyone have an opinion on the “real” reasons for Giuliani joining the team and, especially, what might be a goal re: SDNY/Cohen? Could Giuliani actually do something helpful for C&T?

      • david_l says:

        Right. And Giuliani obviously had lots of experience with SDNY and knew/knows people there so I wondered whether he could still, perhaps not influence but, for example get some heads-ups that would be useful to Trump e.g., in deciding whether/when/how to cut Cohen loose or tell Trump Org people what to do.

        Given that Giuliani has so much Russiagate baggage e.g., presaging Comey’s October Surprise and being in Ukraine with some of Manafort’s Russian pals, it seemed either monumentally bizarre or part of some plan.

        • JD12 says:

          There are a number of things but number one is Trump was running out of options. Rudy has shown his loyalty, which Trump likes. The NY connections are probably a factor. He was with the campaign so he may know stuff that could help with strategy. He replaces Cohen as someone Trump can be more honest with.

          I do wonder, if Rudy knows things, or has exposure from the campaign, can Trump be trying to get retroactive attorney-client privilege or something? Not that it would work, but in Trump’s mind it might.

        • JD12 says:

          Rudy was getting leaks from the FBI, could that have continued into the Russia investigation? Has he been advising Trump from the shadows and only now made it official?

  6. JAAG says:

    Do the need a warrant to find out what Rudy says when he calls old friends down the hall? I think its suspect that he would even take this job.  How is he not conflicted out? Its his old office; for fuck sakes, they only hired (or even resumed paying attention) to him post referral.

  7. TheraP says:

    This is a king of thinking-out-loud comment.  I’ve been trying to formulate something that I’m not even sure of.  But this whole episode is distressing on a number of levels.

    I’m glad that some are pondering the deep questions, underlying what seems to be going on here.  In abroad sense.  For example, what’s happened when a law enforcement agency (FBI) also became an intelligence gathering agency?  (After 9/11)  CIA Intelligence folks lie and even commit “crimes”  (am I right about the latter?) in the service of gathering intelligence and doing other subversive stuff.  So what happens to a person who does that?  (In the worst case you get somebody like Putin.  Trump does it reflexively as a cradle criminal.) But how about the FBI?  Have things gone wrong in certain unanticipated ways, as a kind of unintended consequence?  Or is it our current high level of conflict in this nation?  Or a long line of GOP propaganda and dirty tricks?  (Yes, Dems may do it too.  But the GOP has turned it into an art form.  And Trump, using EW’s recent apt term, is the spawn of the GOP’s trajectory in this regard.)

    I’m not hereby weighing in on McCabe really.  Just troubled by how this seems to have come about.  “Interrogation techniques” were mentioned above.  And that harks back to the whole problem of torture.  This isn’t/wasn’t torture, of course, but we need some kind of discussion around this, like we had around torture.  Why?  Because what’s normal and ethical seems to be shifting under our feet and all around us.  Criminals in the White House.  Urging the abandonment of ethics and morality, while pretending to be strict Law Enforcers.

    As I said to begin with, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say or where exactly the fault lines are, but there’s evil afoot.  And it’s a thin line, sometimes when people let the Ends they prefer permit the Means they should shrink from.  (But if lying is part of your job, where does it stop?). I’m not specifically referring to McCabe, but looking at the larger picture.  (I so recall how people justified torture via tortured logic.  And there’s an awful lot of tortured logic sloshing around in the politics of today.  As for past evil, J.Edgar Hoover comes to mind.)

    Please don’t ask me to defend this.  I’m throwing it out for discussion.

    I also want to thank those above who initially raised questions, orionATL, bmaz, jill. I might not have dared this comment, had they not already paved the way.

    • Sabrina says:

      A couple observations I wanted to make to previous comments (sorry, the reply button doesn’t seem to work for me). I’ll write this in two parts so it’s easier to follow.
      1- In response to TheraP’s comment regarding the broader implications of all of this: I am also feeling like there have been a number of big picture shifts with respect to the FBI and DOJ concerning their independence and interdependence from whoever occupies the WH. Like many here, I feel that the government likely has made many mistakes over the years (under Obama and earlier), possibly including those in the FBI also, which should not be swept under the rug. However, the current political landscape makes it suicide to attempt to deal with these issues right now- the response by the far-right would be unfairly punitive to any prior administration’s (or FBI Director’s) mistakes. Fundamentally, I think what has also changed accordingly (along with harsher punishments for those not aligned with the party politically) is that the current GOP’s intent is *actively* destructive, a scorched earth approach to governance: either they get their way, or the whole thing goes down in flames. Given that type of attitude that has taken hold (amongst Republicans, mainly), a fair evaluation of misconduct in the FBI is an impossible ask, right now.

      With this issue specifically, a big problem I’m seeing is that while one side is busy taking the high road, they are also being excoriated for it by their political opposition- as they rightfully call for resignations due to poor behavior, the other side is gleefully letting them shoot themselves in the foot by getting rid of some people who were otherwise beneficial to the government in general (a good example here is Sen Franken, practically run out of town on a rail and forced to resign without due process). And I’m not referring only to Democrats; there is another divide here, one among those who are playing by the rules and those who believe the rule book is for suckers. And *this* is what relatively upstanding government officials have been up against since the 2016 election. Context matters a lot in this case. I think McCabe’s actions, in initially talking to the WSJ, were partly due to the extreme partisanship in America. The thought that being open about investigations into Hillary’s use of an email server, thereby dragging her through the mud in the process, would go a long way towards “appeasing” the increasingly vocal minority that felt that the Clintons were getting special treatment. This would not have been a necessary thought if the GOP candidate and his allies weren’t poisoning the political discussion, planting seeds of doubt about anyone who represented a threat to Trump- from individual people, all the way to the media and FBI. Going the normal route, letting the “seemingly partisan” DOJ handle the announcement that Hillary would not be prosecuted would be seen as yet another deep-state conspiracy, one that would dog her presidency, incite obstructionism amongst the GOP against her administration, and further erode American morale and sense of unity. So I think that the backdrop against which these actions were conceived was fundamentally different from what had come before. Perhaps this is part of the sense that you are picking up on?

    • Sabrina says:

      2- In response to Trip and others who have reservations with the manner of the firing:
      I could be seeing this incorrectly but I genuinely have the sense that McCabe (and Comey for that matter, for similar reasons) were trying to protect the sanctity of their institution while also being motivated in part by self interest (because, as objective as the justice system aims to be, self interest is an inherent human trait). The higher standard within the FBI isn’t based on the fact that FBI agents will never err, but rather, are capable of introspection and an ability to admit fault and take responsibility.

      None of this is meant to excuse McCabe. He certainly had poor judgement, did not come clean when he was questioned, and tried to shift blame onto other departments! That is absolutely a punishable offense or even a fireable one, but it was within the realm of “normal”, slightly underhanded organization politics. Absolutely wrong, but not dissimilar to what many other high level officials have likely done, and so, fundamentally it was just “garden-variety” misconduct; I state this not to minimize it but to contrast it with the mob-organization level of misconduct that now controls all 3 levers of government and which has wound its way through much of the GOP establishment as well, seemingly. To punish McCabe’s misconduct that forcefully in light of who is running the WH just seems very “off”- which was why I mentioned before that I don’t think this type of misconduct can accurately be handled in the midst of the hyper-partisan cruelty that has hijacked American political discourse. It required some form of punishment, but it should have been dealt with in a way that befitted an otherwise loyal government employee with decades of service (perhaps a meeting with the IG explaining the findings and arranging something like a scale back of pension or benefits after he retired officially- something commensurate with the actual offense committed). If this were any other government or organization, the firing of a 20-year head of the department would have been executed with some sensitivity, which still acknowledging its severity. But in Trump’s America, respect and decorum are remnants of a quaint, bygone era. His firing was done in the most reprehensible, sadistic manner possible- to make him wait until approx 26h before he was officially “safe” to bring down the arm of justice, and then be taunted by the president, who had already made it clear months before that he was actively looking for a way to vengefully deny McCabe his pension.

      Given all of this context, I can’t understand why the IG- a man of good character by all accounts- would have agreed to let McCabe’s fate sit with Trump and Sessions, knowing Trump’s character and penchant for delighting in the suffering of those disloyal to him (though Trump was not directly involved, Sessions is clearly desperate for crumbs of Trump’s favor, so would make the decision in a way that best pleases his ruler). The final nail in the coffin here is the method of punishment chosen- McCabe’s pension, to Trump, is pocket change. And to take the relatively small government pension away from someone THAT publicly (after alluding to it by tweet months prior), while he lives a lavish lifestyle and always will, is sickening in a way that is hard to describe.

      P.S. Apologies for the preceeding novel. I was trying to distill my various thoughts about this issue into a coherent response, and ended up writing a lot more than I originally intended. If I got something completely wrong regarding the actions of any of the people I spoke about, please let me know. It’s hard to parse motivations and whether someone is actually a good person when there are so many conflicting versions of the same events floating around the internet Edit: Also, I just realized the reply button may have actually worked, in which case this comment is not quite where it should be.

      • TheraP says:

        Sabrina, thank you for these comments! And also the further comments above by orionATL and bmaz’s short assent to one of them.

        Yes, all you folks are pointing to what’s bothering me here. And I’d say it all could be subsumed under two ideas:

        1. The double standard. (What my spouse in his native language calls “the law of the funnel” – the wide end for me, the narrow end for you.) So some folks are being literally prosecuted for lying, while others get a pass (a really wide pass!).

        2. False Equivalence. Which is basically the flip side of #1. “But they do it too!!!”

        Somehow this needs to be resolved. It seems unconscionable that the Attorney General is allowed to lie – under oath – to Congress. But not his underling McCabe if he lied to the FBI. Or alternatively, look at Comey, whose self-righteousness told him he “had” to say, 10 days before the election that possibly(!) Clinton had done something wrong and the FBI was looking into it, while simultaneously remaining mum about the investigation related to Russia (and therefore Trump).

        Or the “stolen” Supreme Court seat. Or the allowing of Trump to flout the Emoluments clause, all the while that he points the finger at crimes of others (while doing them himself!). Or Racism in all its ugliness, which to my mind underlies why some immigrants (citizen voters?) are viewed negatively, while others are viewed positively.

        Hypocrisy among the self-righteous.

        And mind you, I know we are all human. We all have our foibles and white lies and so on.

        But we know from Hope Hicks’ admission of it, that lying (even if “white lies”) is part of the “loyalty” Trump expects from his underlings. But then punishes others cruelly if they do that for themselves.

        Change begins within the hearts and minds. It can’t be forced. And though yogarhythms averts that “principles” don’t change and “ethics” doesn’t change, not everyone uses the same process of moral reasoning. Some do it via “principles” (Kohlberg researched that) and others (particularly women) reason via “an ethic of care” (Carol Gilligan researched that). Others followed them.

        When it comes to Ethics, it’s the “reasoning process” that psychologists use, when judging whether or not a particular clinician’s decision-making would be considered “within professional guidelines” or not. Lawyers may do this differently. So, with all due respect, it’s not always as clear cut as saying “ethics don’t change.”

        Nevertheless demogoguery has no place in this. And sadly, that’s what flows from the current White House. Demogoguery and outright criminality and sadistic cruelty.

        And it pains me deeply. Because it’s infecting all areas of govt and society.

        So to future historians, wondering where it all went wrong, I say this: “Some of us tried to understand it. To undo it. To point the way out of this. Some even laid down their careers and their lives to report on it or try to make things better.”

        • orionATL says:

          “…The double standard. (What my spouse in his native language calls “the law of the funnel” – the wide end for me, the narrow end for you.) So some folks are being literally prosecuted for lying, while others get a pass (a really wide pass!)…”

          the law of the funnel – the wide end for me, the narrow end for you.

          thank you.

          i like this very much. i am going to have to borrow it :)

          implicitly it seems to me this wonderful folk saying covers what i think is a very important reality of criminal law everywhere – criminal law is most successful against individuals and small groups who are lack protection due to ethnicity and race, lack of money or actual poverty, social staus, and/or political power

          the numerically larger, more politically powerful, the higher the status, and/or the richer the group an individual belongs to, the more capable that person is of avoiding indictment entirely or , if indicted, of successfully avoiding prosecution.

          • orionATL says:

            these two comments are entirely out of place.

            they belong with

            greengian aprilb21@+-12pm

            former usa paul charlton is mentioned in the bbc writeup. if i recall correctly he was one of 15 usa’s fired in the egregious rove-bush doj purge designed to remove politically unreliable attorneys from the doj. the goal was to replace them with qualified attorneys from, e.g., liberty university law school – “is it true mr. musselman that you believe in sharia law?”

            • orionATL says:

              correction of correction:

              the above comment should be read with orion comment 4/21/18@11:20pm re:greengiant which appears below.

              ignore the sentences above that read “these two comments are entirely out of place. they belong with: “

            • bmaz says:

              Paul is one of the best and most honorable people and prosecutors you could ever hope to meet. Think the original number was six or seven though.

      • TheraP says:

        I left a long comment below Sabrina.  Did it end up in moderation?  Down a rabbit hole?  (Maybe I wrote the email address wrongly again?)

    • Sabrina says:

      TheraP, your take on things illustrates nicely what I was trying to say. Looking at both the double standard and false equivalence running rampant, we can see these are just two of the logical fallacies brazenly celebrated in political discourse as a way to beat the opponent (false outrage, confirmation bias, ad hominem, straw men attacks, and false choices where one is portrayed as heroically good while the other is irredeemably evil). Both sides are capable of and engage in this type of discourse, but we have moved so far down the rabbit hole of needing to “win the argument” that people are saying things that are laughably implausible, seemingly without awareness that they are incorrect. This is our new reality, where logic is inconvenient and violated to such an absurd degree that it feels like this might be an episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s not just in the US- discourse is devolving everywhere, even here in Canada.

      This sense of wanting to claim victory at all costs leads to some variant of the following thought process: who cares if you’ve conceded all moral and ethical high ground, hurt many in the process and irreversibly damaged political discourse? Did you win the argument? If yes, then mission accomplished (pun intended in light of DJTs recent tweet).

      I think what it all eventually boils down to is an increase in anti-social thoughts- empathy is lacking. We’re only really seeing it now since the social fabric is fairly resistant to change, in part because social norms keep things the way they are until a watershed moment occurs and things change permanently. We are seeing this change now, but Trump is a symptom, not a cause. The core issue is not the devolving public discourse but rather how self-interested society has become that Trump, for all his vitriol, garnered enough votes to win the EC.
      Self interest has won out, and many things are casualties to this new public discourse- Intellectualism for one, partly because we’ve flooded the for-profit school system with too many graduates, devaluing education in the process. The sense of disconnection and alienation brought by the internet combined with rising income inequality and resentment towards the “upper classes”- paving the way for a candidate who embodied extreme self interest and antisocial tendencies, but was also a reflection of the voting public. What Trump has done is given those thoughts and behaviors a platform of legitimacy. The public got what they asked for, in a sense.

      (I hope those loose associations of ideas were fairly easy to follow. I’m sorry if my thoughts were a bit scattered since I usually write at bedtime).

      Going back to the McCabe story, the by-product of this is that among those who still value ethics and logic, McCabe acted improperly and should be punished appropriately. But in light of the majority party outwardly flaunting their self-interested priorities, he was still a defender of facts within the government. People in positions of governmental influence are lacking, and firing him that publicly has surely further weakened morale among the FBI. Who would want to speak the truth in this political climate, after seeing what has been done to Comey and McCabe? At a certain point, acquiescence is easier. Once they all fall, it’s over. Pointing out that it’s a correct judgement is fair- but should also consider the context. McCabe is just another casualty, and though there ought to be recognition that he was wrong, we have also lost yet another defender of the ideals that the US used to abide by. An imperfect soldier for the cause, but at least he was still standing.

  8. Kenneth Almquist says:

    “I believe the first of these scoldings served the purpose of creating a paper trail making it look like other offices were responsible for the Barrett leak.”

    That’s possible, but there’s every reason to believe that McCabe was genuinely upset over the leaks.  His reason for leaking to Barrett was to push back against others who were leaking to Barrett.  He wouldn’t have taken the trouble of leaking if he wasn’t bothered by the leaks he was responding to.  So we don’t need to assume that McCabe was trying to deflect responsibility to explain the calls.

    Nor does there seem to be any basis for calling McCabe hypocritical.  Being willing to fight fire with fire doesn’t mean you approve of setting the fire in the first place.

    Since I’m not a regular poster here, I should say that I liked the posting even though I found this aspect of it unconvincing.

  9. yogarhythms says:

    Principles don’t change. Ethics don’t change. Chinese proverb: If you are alive you can change. Situations change. Taking the courses or life experiences to build a foundation within which principles and ethics are found requires change. Principles don’t change. Ethics don’t change. Few in gov’t today have principles or ethics.

  10. NVG says:

    Minor detail here but in the quote …. which is presented as an image where I’ve presented the redaction as XXXX, Why are there TWO ‘and and’ after the XXXXX

    ‘”However, Comey, XXXXX and and Special Counsel all told us that Comey asked McCabe to leave the all out of an abundance of caution because of appearance issues’

    • Sabrina says:

      I’ll take a stab at this. I think it’s basically referring to the fact that McCabe may have been a “sacrificial lamb” of sorts. That he was fired because that may have appeased Trump enough to allow the investigation to continue without firing Mueller first, who is arguably more important for this particular investigation. If someone had to go to appease the Orange One, then McCabe’s firing might have bought them some more time to investigate.
      It could also be referring to the slim chance that perhaps Sessions is actually cooperating with Mueller, and so as not to tip off Trump, if Trump wanted McCabe fired in such a cruel way (right before his retirement), then Sessions would have done so, hurting McCabe badly in the process- but it was done because there would have been a greater gain in the end for McCabe to be fired and the investigation to be still standing.

  11. Jon says:

    can Rudys appearance in the zarrab case be linked to the case against Flynn and his turkey connections?

  12. big fan says:

    After reading the report, was hoping you would comment. I thought it was a bit tendentious, maybe legally correct and binding, that I can’t judge, that the report consistently maintained that McCabe was acting to protect himself with the leak and not the public integrity of the FBI in the face of a clear campaign that they were buckling to political pressure from the Obama DOJ. What also struck me, even more so after the release of the discussions between Comey and Trump about McCabe, was how well informed Trump appeared to be about all this pretty much in real time (more my impression than based on a detailed emptywheel-style timeline). He’s portrayed as a dolt but he seems pretty up on the goings on here, suggesting a lot of leaking going on, and that McCabe’s sin was countering a narrative designed to undermine damaging reporting on Trump’s foundation by Fahrenthold in the Post with the familiar whataboutism. Will McCabe’s case go to a jury? Don’t think the charge will survive reasonable doubt, at least to me.

  13. orionATL says:

    on the topic of trump using and abusing the u.s. department of justice to settle political scores:

    we hear from long-time investigative reporter murray waas  writing in VOX –

    “… Exclusive: Trump pressed Sessions to fire 2 FBI officials who sent anti-Trump text messages

    Trump also asked Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Wray to find derogatory information on the officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

    By Murray Waas  Apr 20, 2018, 9:20am EDT…”


  14. greengiant says:

    The infamous no recording FBI interview with contemporaneous or after the fact notes circa May 9, 2017. If it is good enough for Hutchins it is good enough for McCabe. At least the OIG goes out their way to say his agents had every reason to be truthful.The second lead of the Oct 30 article is “Laptop may contain thousands of messages sent to or from Mrs. Clinton’s private server” When talking about the Oct 30 article and leaks the OIG report repeatedly ignores the Weiner lap top leaks leaving the suggestion that the only reason for the FBI to discuss leaks is the leak of dissensions within the FBI. No reason for OIG to cloud their case with other pertinent facts.
    Note to McCabe, Trump and others. Law enforcement regularly lies to suspect perps. Make your own notes of any interaction with them promptly.Never agree that a lie is the truth.

    • bmaz says:

      These are completely inapposite things, one an internal matter that would NEVER be recorded unless demanded by the interviewee, and the other under an extant recording policy for criminal suspects with enough holes to drive several Mack trucks through, and they should not be equated.

      Cow One is NOT Cow Two, to quote the late and great semanticist S.I. Hayakawa.

      • greengiant says:

        Thanks, as a far over the hill lay person it is easy to be confused by conflating the cow 1 shit (charge) and the cow 2 shit (charge). Personal experience is small, just being lied to at a traffic stop or in a theft report. Friend’s testimonial though, investigator to person A,  we are investigating person B,  when in fact they are “investigating” person A.

        • bmaz says:

          Sadly, that kind of lying, i.e. to suspects, is quite legal thanks to the Supreme Court. Hopefully, one day that, too, will change.

          I am referring to lying on the stand in evidentiary hearings and trials, as well as common search warrant applications and other sworn filings. Things that are actually within the purview of federal courts and/or officers. There is a LOT of that far worse than what McCabe did. Never sees the light of day, and the agents and supervisors are seemingly rarely, if ever, punished.

    • orionATL says:

      i thought the fbi had changed its infamous one agent interrogates, one agent writes notes rules for interviews a few years ago to a new rule requiring an audio tape of all fbi interviews. was this new rule actually put into place. i don’t know for sure. has it been “modified” by doj or effectively ignored by agents. i don’t know :

      video taping is apparently still not allowed because doj is fearful juries might be offended by the tactics fbi agents use.

      ew makes a related point in her post above about mccabe having to undergo the same interrogation process he had employed on suspects – what’s sauce for the goose …

  15. KJAM says:

    Not sure I understand this fully: “I get that McCabe may well be serving as cover for the Mueller interview.”
    anyway you can say differently or expound in some way?

    Thanks for all you do, BTW!

  16. greengiant says:

    Devlin Barrett holds some very interesting information via journalistic privilege. He knows who passed on the story of the Clinton foundation investigations being dampened and he knows who passed on the story of the 650,000 e-mails/messages on Weiner’s laptop. The latter a magic number that changed dramatically over time.  Comey testified that he asked for leaks to be investigated. Does that mean the investigation was done by DOJ IG Horowitz?  Does Horowitz have any other experience with FBI stonewalling and worse besides Fast and Furious?  Like the bomb maker for the Boston Marathon bombings that Horowitz testified for.

    Both Erik Prince and Roger Stone were quoting NYPD sources in the days before the election that Clinton would be indicted on way or the other. Recall the article with the Stone-Manafort created K-street electioneering and no small part of the swamp.


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