Former FBI director James Comey spoke highly of his deputy Andrew McCabe’s integrity, both in public and in multiple private conversations with President Trump, displaying what looks to be poor judgment of McCabe’s character now that the former FBI deputy director has been referred for criminal prosecution for allegedly lying to federal investigators.
Others in the media and in Congress jumped to McCabe’s defense when he was fired, claiming it was a purely political and vindictive move. That too, has been shown to be wrong, as McCabe has been referred to a federal attorney for federal prosecution based on the Justice Department inspector general’s findings that McCabe leaked to the press and lied about it.
Comey repeatedly assured Trump in private conversations that he could trust McCabe, who he referred to as “true professional” and an “honorable person.” When McCabe was removed from his post in January — following months of attacks for perceived conflicts of interest from Trump and Republicans, and in the midst of the IG investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email case — Comey publicly defended and praised McCabe’s honor.
“Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on,” he tweeted. “He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.”
Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.
— James Comey (@Comey) January 30, 2018
The comments have not aged well. The IG found McCabe broke FBI rules by leaking a story to The Wall Street Journal in order to defend his own interests. He authorized an agent to refute reports he prematurely shut down the Clinton Foundation investigation. McCabe then told Comey he did not authorize the leak or know where it came from, and similarly lied to federal investigators, including under oath, the IG found. These findings prompted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire McCabe.
The findings also contrast sharply with the way Comey and other allies have characterized McCabe.
Trump brought up McCabe’s reliability in their second private conversation together, and again in other conversations, in which Comey recounts he assured Trump he didn’t have to worry about McCabe in particular, or about leaks from the higher-ups in the FBI.
“He asked whether the FBI leaks and I answered that of course in an organization of 36,000 we were going to have some of that, but I said I think the FBI leaks far less than people often say,” Comey wrote, adding that he told Trump, “Andy was a true professional and had no problem at all. I then explained what FBI people were like, that whatever there (sic) personal views, they strip them when they step into their bureau roles and actually hold ‘political people’ in slight contempt, without regard to party.”
A third time, he reassures Trump: “At about this point he asked again about ‘your guy McCabe’ and whether he was ‘going to be okay.’ I again affirmed Andy’s ability and professionalism and said the President would come to see and benefit from both.”
Regarding another meeting with Trump, Comey wrote: “I again explained that Andy McCabe was a pro. He asked whether he had ever mentioned to me the campaign attacks. I said ‘never,’ and again explained he was a true pro and you would come to value him.”
In a third conversation with Trump: “As the conversation ended, he said that he hadn’t brought up the McCabe thing because I had said he was an honorable guy … I repeated that he was. He then said he hadn’t brought it up but that McAuliffe is close to the Clintons and had given him money but I had said he was an honorable guy. I repeated that he [Andy] was an honorable person.”
Here’s what others had to say of McCabe, both when he was removed from his post in January and later when he was fired.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder called him a “dedicated public servant” and a victim of “bogus attacks.”
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is, and has been, a dedicated public servant who has served this country well. Bogus attacks on the FBI and DOJ to distract attention from a legitimate criminal inquiry does long term, unnecessary damage to these foundations of our government.
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) January 29, 2018
Sen. Ben Cardin, who leads Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called McCabe’s firing “very vindictive” in a statement. “I just think this is outrageous,” he said. “The Department of Justice, the FBI, should be independent and this type of political behavior should be unacceptable.”
Several Democrats offered to hire McCabe after he was fired, to save him from losing his government benefits. They apparently got the idea from Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, who described herself as a McCabe supporter.
“If a friendly member of Congress hired him for a week he could possibly qualify for pension benefits by extending his service the extra days,” she tweeted.
One suggestion from a McCabe supporter: if a friendly member of Congress hired him for a week he could possibly qualify for pension benefits by extending his service the extra days
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 17, 2018
Former CIA Director John Brennan wrote an indignant defense of McCabe when he was fired, taking aim at Trump in a tweet.
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,” he wrote. “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you.”
Following the release of the IG report and Comey’s memoir, in which he recounts his time at the FBI, Comey has not disputed the that allegations McCabe lied to him. “It’s not okay,” he said on “The View” about the finding McCabe illegally leaked.
“Good people lie,” he added. “I think I’m a good person, where I have lied. I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person, but the inspector general found he lied.”
McCabe maintains his firing was politically motivated, and is reportedly looking to sue for defamation, wrongful termination, and other possible claims. His lawyer said McCabe was “upset and disappointed” by some of the things Comey said.