While Attorney General Jeff Sessions said late Friday that he fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for lack of candor when speaking with internal investigators about authorizing FBI officials to speak with a journalist about a Clinton Foundation probe, McCabe said his ouster is an attempt to discredit him as a witness in Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and former FBI Director James Comey's firing.
Sessions said Friday night that “after an extensive and fair investigation,” the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General reported allegations of misconduct to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), with both offices agreeing that “McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor − including under oath − on multiple occasions.”
But McCabe quickly shot back, saying that he was authorized to allow officials to speak to a reporter to set the record straight about claims that the Justice Department and FBI were at odds over how to proceed with the Clinton investigation. Information was shared with the reporter through the bureau's public affairs department and a legal counselor, McCabe noted in a statement after his firing. The former FBI deputy director contended he was “being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.”
Comey had previously reported to Congress that in early 2016 he took contemporaneous notes on troubling meetings and phone calls with President Trump, which he shared with McCabe. At a Valentine's Day meeting, after Trump had dismissed others, he told Comey he wanted to discuss former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign February 13, 2017, after it was discovered he had discussed sanctions against Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Comey testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last June that with White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus and Vice President Mike Pence along with others hovering outside the door, Trump called Flynn “a good guy” and repeated earlier assertions that he “hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President,” before saying, “'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.'”
Trump has lashed out repeatedly against Comey, McCabe, the FBI and the intelligence community, claiming they have been biased against him in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between members of Trump's team and Russian operatives.
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” said McCabe, who was fired just a little over 24 hours before he was set to retire from the FBI with full benefits. “It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”
The president took to Twitter over the weekend to declare Comey, McCabe and some in the highest levels of the FBI as corrupt, and the Mueller probe a tainted “witch hunt.”
The U.S. last week imposed sanctions on Russian organizations and persons for election interference and other cyberattacks on critical infrastructure as well as the devastating NotPetya attack. And it became public that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records pertaining to Russia as well as other issues being probed by his office.
McCabe has apparently already met with Mueller and turned over his contemporaneous notes about interactions with the president as well as his knowledge of circumstances surrounding Comey's firing, Axios reported, contending that the notes supported Comey's claims regarding his firing.