The Curious Case of The Andrew McCabe Legal Defense Fund

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the curious timing of a legal defense fund for Andrew McCabe — started and closed before the release of a report on his conduct.  With the sentencing of the first Mueller defendant, Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, there are obvious questions of why people like Flynn and van der Zwaan should face prison for single false statements while McCabe is accused of lying four times, including twice under oath.  Mueller’s office insisted that anyone who lies to investigators deserves to be sentenced and punished, but that standard appears to change be somewhat fluid when a former high-ranking FBI official is implicated.  Nevertheless, I can certainly understand McCabe’s interest in a legal defense fund given the ongoing IG investigation and addition of a prosecutor to the team.  However, the money was raised before donors could know the full account of the allegations against McCabe. Moreover, McCabe can use this money for any legal needs as he enters private life.

Here is the column:

The Justice Department recently indicted four “fraudsters” in New York who raised more than $125,000 through a bogus “wounded warrior” charity to benefit themselves rather than to help veterans. It is a recurring problem for people who watch those constant commercials showing trembling dogs in wire cages or heartbreaking kids with cleft lips. Most charities fund legitimate, desperately needed programs but often are harmed by an unscrupulous few.

One recent campaign has attracted huge donations based on dubious claims – and it comes from within the Justice Department itself. The cause is Andrew McCabe, and both the timing and the pitch are strikingly premature. Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s GoFundMe page for a “legal defense fund” appeared after he was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Originally asking for only $150,000, the campaign continued to adjust its goal upward and, in a matter of a few days, surpassed half a million dollars. That is equivalent to more than a decade of McCabe’s expected pension.

McCabe issued a statement, saying that the legal fund “will cease accepting donations on GoFundMe” and acknowledging that the “donations have more than tripled the original goal.” McCabe said in part that the campaign “began organically, with generous people spontaneously giving to accounts that others had set up. I never imagined that I would need to rely on this type of assistance.” Yet, with reports of various investigations “and misleading information about the circumstances of my firing,” he said, “the need for substantial resources for a legal team has become clear.”

Before leaving the Justice Department, McCabe seemed eager to portray himself as the putative victim. It is not easy to transform oneself from a once-powerful public official terminated for cause to the equivalent of a late-night, mud-splattered stray seeking shelter. However, McCabe had the media, which portrayed him as a noble civil servant viciously and unfairly targeted by Trump operatives.

The key to this narrative was the insistence that McCabe was fired hours from his retirement to deny him the pension that he took decades to accumulate. People were outraged, and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell tweeted that a McCabe supporter said that “if a friendly member of Congress hired him for a week he could possibly qualify for pension benefits.” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) thanked Mitchell on air for promoting ways to save McCabe, as he and other members of Congress offered McCabe jobs.

The problem is that the original narrative in the media bordered on the fraudulent. McCabe was never at risk of “losing his pension.” Federal Employees Retirement System benefits are vested after five years and, thus, were not “lost.” McCabe is entitled to recover at the standard period between 57 and age 62. What McCabe wanted to do is receive his roughly $60,000 annual pension early at age 50 under a special law enforcement program. His dismissal only means that he will receive the pension when he reaches the federal retirement age, like the vast majority of other federal employees. He will likely receive a pension of roughly $2 million.

But career Justice Department officials in the office of professional responsibility made the unprecedented finding that the former acting FBI director not only lied to investigators but deserved to be fired. That recommendation was reportedly embraced by the career officials in the inspector general’s office. When apolitical FBI Director Christopher Wray read the summary, he asked McCabe to take a terminal leave and not return to the bureau. Attorney General Jeff Sessions then followed the advice of those career Justice Department officials and fired McCabe.

It was curious to many that McCabe would so quickly embrace a GoFundMe site before he was “referred” for criminal investigation, let alone charged with any crime. (The inspector general could refer his case for possible criminal charges but, historically, Justice Department officials have avoided such referrals.) However, McCabe clearly did not want to wait for the release of the inspector general report on his conduct before soliciting donations.

In fact, a member of Congress has indicated that McCabe was accused of lying not once but four times about leaking information to the media on the Clinton investigation: lying to FBI Director James Comey, lying to the office of professional responsibility, and lying twice under oath to the inspector general. That is hardly the stuff for a late-night pitch for just a $19.95 monthly donation to support a self-wounded FBI man.

What also is striking is that McCabe has used the same defense as Michael Flynn, who took a plea for a single false statement to investigators. Flynn, however, was given the choice between a plea and prison. There was no pension involved. Comey’s investigators reportedly did not believe Flynn was intentionally lying in not recalling the discussion of sanctions with Russian diplomats during the presidential transition. There was nothing unlawful about the meeting, yet Flynn was charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with a false or misleading statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001.

McCabe now insists he “may well have been confused and distracted” four times, and twice under oath. Flynn reportedly took the plea after being drained of his savings, selling his house and facing the possible prosecution of his son, who served as his chief of staff. There was no GoFundMe movement for Flynn, who could still face jail.

In the end, it is not the creation of the GoFundMe page for McCabe that is concerning but its timing. Leading charity watchdogs demand full transparency and information so that “consumers or donors” are not “snookered.” If the public learns that McCabe’s wound was self-inflicted, or even criminal in character, do they get their money back? Not likely.

In the bogus “wounded warrior” case in New York, the FBI and Justice Department denounced efforts that “erode the trust and good will of those who want to contribute to legitimate” causes. McCabe might still prove to be a legitimate cause or he might not be. That is why a GoFundMe effort should follow, not precede, the report on his conduct.  What was missing was a little clarity before a lot of charity in the curious case of Andrew McCabe.

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

203 thoughts on “The Curious Case of The Andrew McCabe Legal Defense Fund”

  1. In case it is missed down before, Squeeky lives in Her Own Private Mississippi and frequently just Makes Stuff Up.

    She isn’t the only commenter here in need of some mental health counseling.

  2. What also is striking is that McCabe has used the same defense as Michael Flynn, who took a plea for a single false statement to investigators.

    Arbitrary application of the law is tyranny.

    The US government once again sets/leads by example. Those in good standing (ie Clapper, McCabe) with the bureaucrats operating the levers of power, hidden deep within the US governments pitch dark bowels, are given a slap on the wrist at worst while those who are outsiders (ie Flynn) are forced into untenable positions that may lead to time in a cage and or impoverishment.


  3. Trump is Cutting Old Gordian Knots By Victor Davis Hanson

    The proverbial knot of Gordium was impossible to untie. Anyone clever enough to untie it would supposedly become the king of Asia. Many princes tried; all failed.

    When Alexander the Great arrived, he was challenged to unravel the impossible knot. Instead, he pulled out his sword and cut through it. Problem solved.

    Donald Trump inherited an array of perennial crises when he was sworn in as president in 2017. He certainly did not possess the traditional diplomatic skills and temperament to deal with any of them.

    In the last year of the Barack Obama Administration, a lunatic North Korean regime purportedly had gained the ability to send nuclear-tipped missiles to the U.S. West Coast.

    China had not only been violating trade agreements but forcing U.S. companies to hand over their technological expertise as the price of doing business in China.

    NATO may have been born to protect the European mainland, but a distant United States was paying an increasingly greater percentage of its budget to maintain NATO than were its direct beneficiaries.

    Mexico keeps sending its impoverished citizens to the United States, and they usually enter illegally. That way, Mexico relieves its own social tensions, develops a pro-Mexico expatriate community in the U.S. and gains an estimated $30 billion a year from remittances that undocumented immigrants send back home, often on the premise that American social services can free up cash for them to do so.

    In the past, traditional and accepted methods failed to deal with all of these challenges. Bill Clinton’s “Agreed Framework,” George W. Bush’s “six-party talks” and the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration essentially offered North Korea cash to denuclearize.

    American diplomats whined to China about its unfair trade practices. When rebuffed, they more or less shut up, convinced either that they could not do anything or that China’s growing economy would sooner or later westernize.

    Europeans were used to American nagging about delinquent NATO contributions. Diplomatic niceties usually meant that European leaders only talked nonstop about the idea that they should shoulder more of their own defense.

    Mexico ignored U.S. whining that our neighbor to the south was cynically undermining U.S. immigration law. If America protested too much, Mexico usually fell back on boilerplate charges of racism, xenophobia, and nativism, despite its own tough treatment of immigrants arriving into Mexico illegally from Central America.

    In other words, before Trump arrived, the niceties of American diplomacy and statecraft had untied none of these knots. But like Alexander, the outsider Trump was not invested in any of the accustomed protocols about untying them. Instead, he pulled out his proverbial sword and began slashing.

    If Kim Jong Un kept threatening the United States, then Trump would threaten him back and ridicule him in the process as “Rocket Man.” Meanwhile, the U.S. would beef up its own nuclear arsenal, press ahead with missile defense, warn China that its neighbors might have to nuclearize, and generally seem as threatening to Kim as he traditionally has been to others.

    Trump was no more patient with China. If it continues to cheat and demand technology transfers as the price of doing business in China, then it will face tariffs on its exports and a trade war. Trump’s position is that Chinese trade duplicity is so complex and layered that it can never be untied, only cut apart.

    Trump seemingly had no patience with endless rounds of negotiations about NATO defense contributions. If frontline European nations wished to spend little to defend their own borders, why should America have to spend so much to protect such distant nations?

    In Trump’s mind, if Mexico was often critical of the United States, despite effectively open borders and billions of dollars in remittances, then he might as well give Mexico something real to be angry about, such as a border wall, enforcement of existing U.S. immigration laws, and deportations of many of those residing illegally on U.S. soil.

    There are common themes to all these slashed knots. Diplomatic niceties had solved little. American laxity was seen as naivete to be taken advantage of, not as generous concessions to be returned in kind.

    Second, American presidents and their diplomatic teams had spent their careers deeply invested in the so-called postwar rules and protocols of diplomacy. In a nutshell, the central theme has been that the U.S. is so rich and powerful, its duty is to take repeated hits for the global order.

    In light of American power, reciprocity supposedly did not matter—as if getting away with something would not lead to getting away with something even bigger.

    Knot cutters may not know how to untie knots. But by the same token, those who struggle to untie knots also do not know how to cut them.

    And sometimes knots can only be cut—even as we recoil at the brash Alexanders who won’t play by traditional rules and instead dare to pull out their swords.

    1. Well said. We elected him to cut these knots, and he is. Good job, Mr. President!

      1. Foxtrot, have you noted how none on the left acknowledge any of these points? They only seem to call names, but really have nothing to say.

        1. True they have nothing to say, but they still continue to say it, over and over and over again (looking at you, Linda).

          1. Foxtrot, everything and, everyone has a purpose. We just have to look deeply to find it. In Linda’s case, we have to look a bit more deeply.

    2. Allan, thank you for such concise and factual analysis. Well done to Trump; who indeed has achieved so much in such a short time despite attacks from liberals. MAGA Trump 2020

  4. The government has their own GoFundMe campaign running year round. It would be interesting to just once be able to direct those funds myself.

  5. Turley wrote, “It is not easy to transform oneself from a once-powerful public official terminated for cause to the equivalent of a late-night, mud-splattered stray seeking shelter.”

    Turley also wrote, “If the public learns that McCabe’s wound was self-inflicted, or even criminal in character, do they get their money back?”

    The first statement cited above is gleeful animosity. The second statement cited above is from a vendettist gone completely and totally beyond the pale. Neither are instances of civic virtue from a man who, just the other day, fretted with hand-wringing consternation that he has never seen our country more divided by such a poisonous political environment.

    Does Turley truly believe that charging McCabe with fraud for starting a legal defense fund before he has been charged with a crime is going to detoxify our poisonous political environment and bind the wounds that have made our country so divided?

    No! It is not possible for the vendettist, Turley, truly to believe any such civilly-virtuous thing. It is only possible for the vendettist, Turley, to rub salt in the wounds that divide us and to inject more venom, gall and spleen into our poisonous political environment.

    And all for the sake of slaking the bloodthirst of the vendettist, Turley.

    1. “And all for the sake of slaking the bloodthirst of the vendettist, Turley.”
      With sentiments like that and your high regard for principles, I’m assuming this is sayonara for you. Who’d want to sully their reputation being associated with a vendettist? Bon voyage!

      1. You’re forgetting that everyone who follows or posts on this blawg has already read the post of one Squeeky Fromm Girl Reporter. Now there’s a prisoner swap for you. Get rid of SFGR; get rid of L4D. Any takers?

        1. Squeek’s comments are honest and based on reality. Diane’s comments are frequently lies or represent twisted logic. Diane can always attempt to debate with Squeeky, but she won’t.

          There is no question that Diane is a useless appendage that can be cut from the blog without harm.

          1. Squeek’s comments are honest and based on reality.

            No, her comments are derived from a caricature file in her head. She’s unable to process information at a variance with it and unable to shut up when it’s laid out in front of her. She’s also a psychopath.

            1. I don’t think so Nutchacha. Sometimes, her comments are a bit too inflammatory but I think that is due more to satire than to racist psychopathy. I think all people on a blog like this can develop a perceived caricature of themselves that is transmitted to others.

              1. You’re not paying careful attention. See my recent exchanges with her.

                1. For me to see it I would have to know where it was. I couldn’t find it. There is a lot of pathology on this blog so I am not going to say you are wrong rather I question whether or not you are right.

            2. No DSS this time your opinion is not shared by many of us. Squeeky is clever, intelligent, humorous, and very well-read. She doesn’t sugar-coat her comments, but then again, neither do you. She also does not tolerate bullies – I for one admire her for that.

              1. Squeeky lives in Her Own Private Mississippi and frequently just Makes Stuff Up.

          2. The reality that she’s an ill-informed, close-minded, intolerant, superstitious, stereotype-riddled, racist? Is that how the American polity chooses to see itself? Sorry, not in my America. Those who don’t unequivocally denounce racist nonsense are riding in the same car. You’all can perhaps get two-fer-one specials on sheet sets during the white sale down to the piggly-wiggly.

            this is to “you know, maybe slavery wasn’t so bad, after all” allan

            1. For a person with no spine, you sure talk big. If you think Squeeky is a racist debate her with something other than your usual pot shots where you run away and hide. Go ahead Mark expose her or are you afraid you will expose yourself? I think the latter is more likely. You like to act as if you are an inviting decent person, but what I think you really are is an envious closet racist that hides in the center of a mob.

      2. Mespo,…
        – Maybe L4D concluded that JT has ” the bloodthirst of a vendettist” because he’s part Sicilian.😉
        I don’t know which of her comments was more melodramatic; that Paul Schulte would ” be regaled by curses the likes of which the world has ever heard”, or her “vendettist” comment about JT.

          1. Allan,

            – Or a “vendettist”.
            I allowed here that it may ” just” be
            ethnic stereotyping on L4D’s part.

  6. Professor Turley has made it to top of the page of Drudge Report!….second news item

    TURLEY: When will media accept president is not criminal target?


    No wonder Ipsa is getting more traffic!

    Congratulations JT.

  7. This case, in some ways, reminds me of Sander’s donors to the DNC. They thought their money would go to support Sander’s campaingn. Instead the DNC took it for Hillary and they are now claiming in a court of law, that they have every right to do this.

    Blanche (kindness of strangers) McCabe has, once again, shown what kind of person he is. He should give back money to any person who asks for it, even if he is not legally required to do so. As it does appear that he gets to keep the money, a decent person would only use it if necessary and exactly for the purpose it was requested. He could donate the money to actually indigent people who need legal help, perhaps to the Innocence Fund?

    Mueller’s investigation is a process of hypocrisy. As we are effectively living under the rule of men, and no longer have the rule of law, hypocrisy will be utterly “normal” for our society. Yet that is one of the most destructive actions in any society.

    Hypocrisy lies all around us.

    1. When these alleged ‘Sanders Donors” gave money to the DNC, did their checks bear the note, “To be used for Bernie only?”

      Let’s be honest here. If one donates money to the DNC they are allowing said recipient to use their money to support Democratic candidates. And Hillary happened to be the Democratic nominee.

      Had Sanders donors wanted to support Sanders directly, they should have sent their checks ‘directly’ to Sanders. I’m positive Bernie had a campaign organization to process such donations.

      1. Yes, Sanders did and does. It is that list that has provoked some interest from the DNC.

  8. Mr. Turley ponders the following: “With the sentencing of the first Mueller defendant, Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, there are obvious questions of why people like Flynn and van der Zwaan should face prison for single false statements while McCabe is accused of lying four times, including twice under oath.”

    While the questions may be obvious, the answers are equally as obvious. The number of lies told by the respective parties is not relevant. What is relevant here is the magnitude or impact of the lies. And the principle to keep in mind here is a lie is only important to the extent that the person lying is not closely affiliated with the Deep State. Since neither Flynn nor van der Zwaan may be deemed to be closely affiliated with the Deep State, their lies obviously have much more magnitude and impact than the lies of McCabe, who is closely affiliated with the Deep State.

    Once the underlying principles are understood, the answers as to when a lie requires prosecutorial action and when it does not become readily apparent.

    1. The magnitude of the lie is relevant. As is the issue of whether investigators are mislead.
      In Flynn’s instance the investigators conducted an ambush interview for which Flynn had no opportunity to prepare, and he misstate one topic of a conversation that had many topics, further the topic was raised by the other party and dismissed by Flynn. Finally the investigators had a transcript – which was not shared with Flynn. The interview was not “investigative” – they already knew all the details of the conversation – it was an attempt to entrap.

      McCabe made the same false statement 4 times.
      In all instances he had the opportunity to prepare.
      In all instances he knew he was going to be questioned and what the likely questions were.

      In the instance of McCabes statements investigators knew that a criminal leak existed but had no idea what McCabes role was.

      Flynn was a whitehouse advisor at the time. McCabe was the head or near the head of the FBI.
      McCabe was a lawyer Flynn was not.

      McCabe’s remarks may have mislead congress and investigators with respect to underlying conduct that is criminal.

      Flynn mislead no one about conduct that was legal.

      Finally, McCabe was part of the setup of Flynn and not only has a record of animus against Flynn, but a record of using his power to punish those who cross him.

      So yes McCabe is FAR more serious than Flynn.

    2. I think folks and Mr. Turley are missing what’s really going on here.

      $500K is a drop in the bucket when it comes to defending against the govt in Washington, DC. This has nothing to do with McCabe’s legal fees, and everything to do with making up for the fact that he can’t collect his full pension at this time.

      1. McCabe is worth $11 million. Boo hoo for any delay in receiving his full pension and having to wait the same amount of time as regular federal employees.
        A multimillionaire going online to beg for charity — and getting it — is one of the best metaphors you’ll find for partisan and ideological hypocrisy in 2018.

      2. $500K is a drop in the bucket when it comes to defending against the govt in Washington, DC.

        Defending yourself against a federal investigation can incorporate appalling expenses, but it’s not so bad that 500K is a ‘drop in the bucket”.

    3. There’s another aspect I’ve not heard anyone mention regarding the motive for van der Zwaan being sentenced to serve 30 days in jail for his one lie.
      If you use this figure as an arithmetic baseline punishment and apply it to McCabe, he’d be looking a four months in jail — not prison but jail — for his four lies.
      It could even be that the entire purpose for prosecuting van der Zwaan was to set a precedent for low punishment when/if justice is dispensed regarding FBI/DOJ employees — notwithstanding that they should be held to a significantly higher behavioral standard.

    4. “Deep State” entity which you reference is intriguing. It appears that through your indefatigable sleuthing, you have uncovered a cabal of nefarious ne’er-do-wells, seemingly hell-bent on eradicating our ‘Merican way of life; our love of reality TV and apple pie; or fluoridating our precious bodily fluid; or some other such dastardly deed. Keep up the good work Inspector, keep it up.

      this is to “Inspector Clouseau, at your service” ralphie – georgie

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