Friendly Fire: Did McCabe’s Dig At Trump Undermine Comey?

McCabe440px-Comey-FBI-PortraitBelow is my column in the Hill newspaper on the implications of the termination of Andrew McCabe and his revealing public statement.  The statement presents a particularly difficult problem of former FBI Director James Comey.

Here is the column:

Following his termination late Friday night, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe declared that he was “singled out” after “unrelenting” attacks by President Trump and critics. McCabe’s objections are less than credible, given the virtually unprecedented recommendation of career officials to fire the one-time acting FBI director.

However, McCabe may have rectified his “singled out” status with his long statement criticizing his termination: In the middle of it is a line that could be viewed as incriminating fired FBI director James Comey, not just in leaking sensitive information but also in lying to Congress.

McCabe is accused of misleading investigators about allegedly giving information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter about the investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family’s charitable foundation. McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to “share” that information to the media but did so with the knowledge of “the director.” The FBI director at the time was Comey.

“I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe stated. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”

If the “interaction” means leaking the information, then McCabe’s statement would seem to directly contradict statements Comey made in a May 2017 congressional hearing. Asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or whether he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general clearly saw this “interaction” as problematic in seeking answers from McCabe. If the inspector general considered this to be a leak to the media, any approval by Comey would be highly significant. Comey already faces serious questions over his use of a Columbia University Law School professor to leak information to the media following his own termination as director.

In leaving the FBI last year, Comey improperly removed memos about the Russian investigation that he wrote concerning meetings with Trump. Since these memos discussed an ongoing FBI investigation and were written on an FBI computer, the bureau reportedly confirmed they were viewed as official documents subject to review and approval prior to any removal or disclosure.

Comey could have given the memos to the congressional oversight committees. Instead, he removed at least seven memos and gave at least four to his professor-friend to leak to the media. Four of the seven memos that Comey removed are now believed to be classified. Since he reportedly gave four memos to his friend to leak to the media, at least one of the leaked memos was likely classified.

Now, McCabe appears to be suggesting that Comey was consulted before the alleged leak to the media on the Clinton investigation. Many of us had speculated that it seemed unlikely McCabe would take such a step without consulting with Comey. Yet, Comey repeatedly stated that he had never leaked nor caused anyone to leak information to the media.

The timing for Comey could not be worse. He already has started selling tickets, for roughly $100 each, to attend the tour for his forthcoming book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” If he gave McCabe the green light for his “interaction,” the title could prove embarrassingly ironic.

If this was determined to be a leak with his approval, Comey likely would be labeled not just a leaker but a liar. Worse, his second-in-command just lost his pension after more than 20 years with the bureau, while Comey is about to cash in on a book and publicity tour potentially worth millions.

Comey also will be releasing his book around the same time as the inspector general’s report is expected to be made public. The inspector general reportedly will detail a number of irregularities under Comey’s watch. So the book could look more like a work of fiction if the inspector general finds that the FBI was a mess under Comey’s “leadership.”

McCabe’s termination is likely to only add to Comey’s problems. Four U.S. senators are calling for appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the Justice Department during the Clinton investigation. Moreover, there could be serious questions raised over the indictment of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for misleading investigators, which is the same allegation that McCabe faced before his termination. McCabe’s case could still be referred to prosecutors for possible indictment under the same provision used against Flynn.

The McCabe controversy could also make life tougher for special counsel Robert Mueller. While McCabe lashed out at Trump in his statement, he may have just given Trump the long-sought cover to use his pardon power. If McCabe is not charged, Trump could cite that decision as the basis for pardoning Flynn, as a matter of equity and fairness.

More generally, the apparent conduct of both McCabe and Comey have fulfilled the narrative long advanced by Trump of a biased and unprincipled FBI investigation. Given Trump’s ill-advised inclination to fire Mueller in the past, these allegations of leaks and misrepresentations inside the FBI could rekindle Trump’s interest in forcing an end to the investigation that has dogged his administration for a year.

Trump would be unwise to take such action. Instead, McCabe’s firing should reinforce calls for an independent investigation with the maximum level of transparency. The same is true for the Russia investigation of the Trump campaign. This country is deeply divided over the allegations against Trump and his opponents. We will not overcome this chasm until we are satisfied that we have the full factual record from the Clinton and Russia investigations.

This is particularly true for the FBI, which will not be able to regain the trust of many Americans without making a clean break from scandal. That means total transparency, which runs against the bureau’s culture. Yet, without greater disclosure, the public will be left wondering if a sense of Comey’s “Higher Loyalty” dangerously blurred the lines between “Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

53 thoughts on “Friendly Fire: Did McCabe’s Dig At Trump Undermine Comey?”

  1. Turley wrote, “More generally, the apparent conduct of both McCabe and Comey have fulfilled the narrative long advanced by Trump of a biased and unprincipled FBI investigation.”

    Hogwash! Rudy Guliani and the New York Office of the FBI went rogue with a biased and unprincipled intervention in the 2016 election against Clinton and for the benefit of Trump. McCabe’s authorized leak to the Wall Street Journal was an entirely justified correction of the record on a false story planted in the WSJ by Guliani and the New York Office of the FBI. Don’t be surprised if the Inspector General’s report backs that up by naming the FBI agents in the New York office who leaked like a partisan, politicized sieve during the 2016 campaign. Trump sponsored the efforts of Guliani and the New York Office of the FBI to politicize the 2016 election. Comey and McCabe were forced to intervene in order to counter the rogue operation that Trump and Guliani were running with the New York Office of the FBI. Now Trump wants a double dipper’s benefit from his own chicanery as a dirty trickster. That is the way of Richard M. Nixon. It will not work any better for Trump than it did for Tricky Dick. Except insofar as Pence can avoid going the way of Agnew.

    1. L4D: ” Comey and McCabe were forced to intervene in order to counter the rogue operation that Trump and Guliani were running with the New York Office of the FBI. ”
      Wow, where on earth do you get your weed?

      1. Trump is the weed. Guliani boasted and bragged on TV in the closing weeks of the 2016 election of his connections in the New York office of the FBI. Guliani also predicted on TV that a few surprises were in store for the Clinton campaign. Those surprises turned out to be the reopening of the Clinton email investigation and the fake news reports in the WSJ and elsewhere that smeared the FBI and McCabe. Trump’s war of propaganda and disinformation against the FBI, the DOJ and the OSC is not a new strategy. It is a continuation of Trump’s campaign strategy to convince Americans that “the system is rigged” against Trump, when, in fact, Trump was avidly rigging the system in his own favor. That much is intuitively obvious even to the most casual of observers. No psychotropic substances required. Now go smoke your own weed, Earl Morrall Relativist.

    2. Where is Rudy G? In a undisclosed location? People have forgotten that he was up to his neck with the FBI office in NYC.

  2. When they finally get around to making a movie about this period in American politics, they’ll likely need a Godfather-like trilogy more than just one film like All The President’s Men. Hell, if Mueller is just getting started, this might end up being a Star Wars nine.

  3. I wish to publicly thank Professor Turkey as a refugee who fled Communism and came to this once great country as a beacon of hope. My family and I have discussed at length how scared we are for this country in its following the same trajectory of all of the other tyrannical countries that so many of us refugees fled seeking freedom. We once believed in the great uniqueness of this country, but more and more it is reading like a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    Clearly no one in Democrat Party seems bothered by the FBI / KGB / Gestapo / Guerillas type forces employed by the FBI, DOJ, Dept of State, and “news media” agencies. “Pravda never looked so good compared to our present USA Ringling Brothers Circus news outlets

    Along comes a man who truly represents the spirit of the Founding Fathers of the USA: Jonathan Turley.

    Thank you Professor Turkey for giving us immigrants hope that at least someone is keeping an eye, and bringing to the public forum, the duplicitousness of McCabe, Comey, Clinton, Trump and all of the carnival barkers in Washington DC. This country deserves so much better!

    1. “Thank you Professor Turley” (not Turkey).

      Obvious typo / auto-correct

      1. I’ve seen this typo many times.
        It comes from the “L” and the “K” being right next to each other on the keyboard.
        Uber embarrassing when you are trying to laud someone 🙁

    2. Six heirs to the Walton fortune have wealth equivalent to 40% of Americans combined. Labor is receiving the lowest share of national income in U.S. recorded history. American citizens have only as much “hope” and freedom as the oligarchs allow. If you can’t see the trend spelled out in Republican voter suppression, gerrymandering and Citizens United, I hope you don’t vote in this country. Read the research of Prof. Martin Gillens that documents the U.S. has become an oligarchy. The GOP and its richest 0.1% have aligned with the repressive government of Putin, foretelling the future.

      1. How truly sad for someone to think that the lack of spread of the wealth in this country is attributable only to the GOP. How blind it is for someone to spout that gerrymandering is solely to blame on the GOP. How appalling for someone to believe proving your identity smacks of suppression.

        And that folks is why we are currently in a modern day civil war.

        1. And people like you are waving the stars and bars. It happens to be true about the modern republican party, its not a party anymore, it’s a cult.

          1. This is what happens when someone comments without thinking through. Did I complement the Repubs? No. Both parties deserve their low ratings. Both parties keep spiraling toward the bottom.

            What I can’t stand is for some partisan to not see how obvious that both Parties are chock full of corrupt beings. To blame anything on 1 party is ridiculous as Linda’s comments were.

        2. Linda conveniently forgets about Bezos – many of his warehouse workers are on welfare, having breakdowns due to physical and mental stress. But far worse than the Waltons he is involved in the Deep State. A real menace.

          MP is correct – this is not a Republican issue – Dims feed along with them at the never-ending trough provided by corporate welfare and lobbyists.

        3. There’s a fight among segments of the Democratic Party for the soul of the Party. The fight is aimed at
          routing those with undue influence due to wealth, who are pulling the Party to policies that harm the common good and benefit the richest 0.1%.
          There’s no fight within the Repub. Party because there’s no soul. The GOP’s only goal is to pave the way for short term money-taking by party donors – e.g. the Koch’s writing a check to Paul Ryan’s campaign shortly after the tax scam bill passed.

          1. For every wealthy Republican benefactor, there is a wealthy Democratic benefactor. For every Koch, there’s a Soros. For every Mercer, there’s a Steyer.

            Please take your blinders off. You come to this website for adult commenting. Either educate or go to Huffington Post.

            1. Huffpo’s reputation could never match Fox and Hannity, for tarnish. If there are wealthy people who care about the common good, there should be a political party that welcomes them. Warren Buffet is all hat and no cattle, proved by his decision to let villainthropist Bill Gates spend his “charitable” money for him.

      2. And 8 years of Hope and change only accelerated the wealth and income gap.
        Are you worried that people are paid upwards of $20 million for 13 weeks worth of “work”? Basically playing dress up and reading someone else’s words.

  4. Before anyone draws any conclusions, try to remember that Andy is making statements which are meaningless and self serving but more importantly, not under oath. I would discount anything he says at this point.
    It’s likely he is reachng out for help by promulgating a story in the press as a warning as to what he could say.

  5. (1) “I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe stated. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”

    Aside from being something NOT stated under oath but merely in a press release (and it’s no crime to lie to the press), McCabe’s statements here represent a direct contradiction to the FBI Employment Agreement which specifies the procedure for obtaining authorization to release FBI information, BEGINNING with submitting a written request for authorization to release information.
    McCabe needs to be asked where the procedures he referenced are reduced to written rules, given the contradiction with the procedures for releasing FBI information specified in the FBI Employment Agreement. If McCabe repeats under oath his assertions that he was authorized to release information to the press, and if he can’t produce written verification of his alleged authorization, then he’s ripe for criminal prosecution as the FBI Employment Agreement warns:

    “7. Violations of this employment agreement may constitute cause for revocation of my security clearance, subject me to criminal sanctions, disciplinary action by the FBI, including dismissal, and subject me to personal liability in a civil action at law ***”

    (2) “… McCabe’s firing should reinforce calls for an independent investigation with the maximum level of transparency.”

    WRONG. McCabe’s CONDUCT (not his firing) should lead to a criminal investigation which, like all criminal investigations, should be executed not with “transparency” but with as much secrecy as possible, in order to preserve the case and the evidence for presentation in court untainted by politics and inflammatory public pronouncements.

    Plus, Turley appears to have missed Sessions’ announcement that he’s already appointed a DOJ prosecutor from outside of Washington to review ALL of these matters, most likely after the Inspector General’s investigation reported discovering conduct that could potentially constitute violations of the criminal code. When an Inspector General stumbles upon conduct that could potentially be criminal, he is required to report that conduct a criminal prosecutor, who then opens a parallel investigation, with all the tools necessary to extract documents and testimony from witnesses beyond the reach of the Inspector General.

    1. WB – I was just sent a link to the “The Conservative Treehouse”, including the “Why, How and Who” video summaries. Have you watched those? I found them incredibly informative for the “who’s who” part of at least this piece of the corruption.

      I perused around the site and it appears to be incredibly well-reasearched and sourced. I will definitely be returning for updates, especially as we approach the release of the IG report.

      1. Yes — I’ve seen those three videos before. Today’s publication of those videos is a re-run. And they are very good, in that they put the whole picture in perspective, while leaving out many laborious details that are available in various Conservative Treehouse articles.
        If you’re knew to that site, a good place to begin a review of the information it has assembled is back in a December 19, 2017 piece titled “McCabe Today, Ohr Tomorrow, And Deep State Predictably Runs Out Rooster Head For Chaff and Countermeasures…”

        At the bottom of that piece is a section titled “Resources” wherein links to previous articles related to specific matters are provided.
        It’s also an interesting place to begin because of things that have transpired since.
        Sundance (whether that’s a pseudonym for one person or a whole team of people) has been on top of these issues for a long time, with excellent analysis. It’s where I start every day, just to find out what’s breaking and compare with what other sites mention about those issues, if anything.

          1. Enjoy. If Sundance turns out to be correct, I don’t see how he could avoid getting a Pulitzer for the reporting on this subject. It seems like he is/they are living this thing. Posting stories all hours of the night and day, and continually digging up one more bit of connective tissue.

  6. McCabe should have slept on issuing a response. Instead he lashed out Friday night and revealed to much in his fake victim-like diatribe. It reminds me of Dan Gilbert responding to LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami when he lashed out on social media the same night as “The Decision”. Both men needed to be tackled by their wives/inner circles and kept away from all forms of social media until they cooled off and were in position to respond from the right side of their brains instead of responding from their stomachs and hearts. “Don’t hit send” altogether or at least until cooled off – conveys a message of strength and self discipline which in itself is a strong message.

    1. (1) “… respond from the right side of their brains instead of responding from their stomachs and hearts.”

      I believe you mean that McCabe (and Gilbert) should have cooled off and responded from the LEFT side of their brains. Right Side = art and emotion, Left Side = science and intellect.

      (2) Dan Gilbert’s response to LeJerk leaving for Miami and “taking his talents with [him]” might have been ill-advised and emotional, but speaking as a Clevelander, I can assure you that it made him an instant hero in town, well worh the $100,000 he got fined by the NBA.
      I’m pretty sure dealing with LeJerk over the years caused Gilbert to use the left side of his brain to the point of exhaustion, in trying to figure out how to deal with a moron with a “high basketball IQ” (LeJerk’s favorite expression) and no measurable IQ of the standard variety.

      1. Re left side of brain – thanks for correction. Re “LeJerk”, looks like it took time for Gilbert to use left side of brain to deal with him i.e. bring him back to win a championship and now take car keys away from the overgrown teenager. I reside in South FL and saw firsthand his lack of class when he departed the Heat so your “LeJerk” nickname seems fitting to me.

        1. LOL — if you only knew! I have no clue how LeJerk behaved in Florida, but I have no basis to believe he acted any differently than he did here in Cleveland for many years, before and after.
          Here’s a sample — it’s about LeJerk talking about is moronic tweets almost exactly two years ago:

          “They’re for the educated mind,” James said at the time. “So if you have an educated mind, they hit home for you.”

          LOL — I wonder how many of LeJerk’s high school teachers had to be sedated to get their laughter under control when they read that.

  7. This crew have J Edgar beat. The witch hunt goes on while the real witch flies off on her broom. Will we find out if Barry S had his hand in there as well.

  8. (music)
    I’m Comey, the clown I am…
    Mueller lives in a garbage can.
    McCabe is an honest Abe…
    He drinks coolaid while in the shade…
    And every con is RepubliCon!
    They wouldn’t be a Willy or a Fred.
    For there ain’t no snake like RepubliCon!
    Comey, the clown I am!

  9. Look, I appreciate that Jon Turley has pointed out that McCabe’s statement means to James Comey lied to Congress under oath. But so what? Lying under oath is only a crime for ordinary individuals who do not have their Deep State credentials. Comey is a made man, and is untouchable.

  10. Equal justice under the law of the United States Of America,. Equal application of the law is not only warranted but justified. Give them a trial and lock them up, well, unless the jury is comprised of all liberals.

  11. So did Mr. McCabe inadvertently throw Mr. Comey under the bus? Or was it a conscious decision?

    Will Mr. McCabe become this century’s John Dean? They do have a similar appearance….

  12. It won’t matter. They’re well-connected Democrats. The law doesn’t apply to them. Even if you fire them, they become darlings of the media and face an abundance of riches of job offers.

    The law is for us peasants.

  13. Well, I have a tip for McCabe and Comey to help keep their stories straight. They both need to hire Cheryl Mills as their attorney! That way, she can sit in on the interviews for everybody, and kick them under the table if they stray from the narrative!

    We already know that she can get away with this! And “conflict of interest” concerns??? Oh, Pish and Pother, nobody in the DOJ or judiciary cares about that stuff!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. “Oh! What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive”

    – Sir Walter Scott

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