DOJ's watchdog refers Andrew McCabe to US attorney for criminal investigation

  • The Justice Department's inspector general's office has sent a criminal referral regarding former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the US Attorney in Washington, DC.

  • The inspector general's office released a report last week saying that McCabe "lacked candor" when discussing his decision to authorize disclosures to the media about the FBI's investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has sent a criminal referral regarding former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the US attorney's office in Washington, DC, according to CNN.

The revelation comes after the OIG released a report last week which found that McCabe "lacked candor" in several instances when discussing his decision to authorize disclosures to the media about the FBI's investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

The report came after a months-long internal investigation into McCabe's conduct, much of which is said to have taken place around the 2016 US election. McCabe was forced out of the bureau in January amid the investigation.

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After the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, concluded that McCabe was not forthcoming when testifying to internal investigators about his decisions leading up to the election, the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) recommended that Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire McCabe, which Sessions then did in March.

Sessions said in his statement at the time that "both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news med and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions."

He continued: "Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI's Office of Personal Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department's senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately."

On Wednesday, 11 House Republicans sent a letter to the DOJ and FBI calling for a criminal investigation into McCabe, Clinton, former FBI director James Comey, former attorney general Loretta Lynch, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, FBI general counsel Dana Boente, and FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

A criminal referral from the OIG, however, holds far more weight because the group is comprised of a set of non-partisan and objective investigators.

Legal experts said Thursday that if the US attorney's office in Washington opens a criminal investigation into McCabe and he is charged with a crime, the likely charge would be lying to the FBI.

The inspector general's office and McCabe's attorney declined to comment.

DOJ watchdog finds McCabe made decisions 'designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership'

The Wall Street Journal article at the center of the OIG's inquiry into McCabe was published on October 30, 2016, two days after Comey, the FBI director at the time, announced in a letter to Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

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The article was a detailed account of internal strife within the top ranks of the DOJ about how to proceed after FBI agents investigating Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman, discovered 650,000 emails on his laptop that could have been sent to or received from Clinton's private email server.

The reporter who wrote The Journal's article, Devlin Barrett, was in touch with two top FBI officials on the phone two days before the story broke, according to text messages released in February.

The officials were Page, an FBI lawyer who often worked with McCabe, and Michael Kortan, an FBI spokesman. The OIG report refers to Page and Kortan as "Special Counsel" and "then-Assistant Director for Public Affairs."

While law-enforcement officials often speak to the press on background to provide more complete details about a story, they are prohibited from disclosing information about ongoing investigations.

The inspector general found that McCabe's authorization of disclosures to the media regarding the Clinton Foundation investigation "effectively confirmed the existence" of the inquiry, something Comey "had previously refused to do."

The report also listed at least four instances in which McCabe "lacked candor" when discussing the disclosures while he was under oath.

"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," the inspector general's report said.

The deputy director's ouster followed a string of public attacks leveled by President Donald Trump, accusing him of putting his thumb on the scale in Clinton's favor.

Trump's attacks were based on information in a separate Journal article published one week before the one on October 30 and written by Barrett focusing on an unsuccessful 2015 run for a Virginia Senate seat by McCabe's wife, Jill McCabe.

The Journal reported on October 24, 2016, that her campaign received $675,000 in donations from the Virginia Democratic Party and Common Good VA, the super PAC run by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter.

According to the inspector general's report, Barrett emailed Kortan and the Office of Public Affairs about a follow-up story he was working on, saying he was told McCabe gave instructions on how to proceed with the Clinton Foundation investigation that summer, "given that it was the height of election season and the FBI did not want to make a lot of overt moves that could be seen as going after [Clinton] or drawing attention to the probe."

When Barrett asked the office to comment on the accuracy of the description, McCabe instructed Page to provide information to Barrett for the follow-up story, which resulted in the October 30 article.

This is a developing story.

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