Many in the media have struggled mightily to ignore the highly disturbing evidence that has been released in the Flynn case and to paint the decision to dismiss the case as a raw political act by Attorney General Bill Barr. CNN this morning even called former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who proceeded to make statements about the record that were utterly absurd and untrue. Not only was McCabe not challenged on the statements, it was never mentioned that he was fired after being found by career investigators to have lied to them (the very charge against Flynn). Despite the fact that his false statements were related to this very case, it was not deemed relevant to raise by CNN with CNN’s senior analyst. McCabe however displayed the very bias and maliciousness documented by career investigators before he was fired. The interview reminds one of the recently released text of FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok to Lisa Page, the Special Counsel to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, remarking that “our utter incompetence actually helps us.”
CNN host John Berman interviewed McCabe. CNN has long used McCabe to give analysis on a host of Trump-related stories despite being fired by Trump, ridiculed for his prior bias, and referred (by career officials) for possible criminal charges.
This interview, however, was even more remarkable. The documents released in the Flynn case referred to McCabe and his alleged misconduct. He was not asked about any of the specific allegations against him. Instead, he gave a revisionist history that quickly crossed into fantasy.
McCabe told Berman that, in December 2016, they were considering the closure of the investigation involving Flynn but that it was a “close question.” We have previously discussed this history. On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Flynn. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”
After Strzok intervened to stop the closure of the investigation, he texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)”
So McCabe was left unchallenged in saying that at that time there was a close question as to whether to close Crossfire Razor when his investigators found nothing. Nothing. That made it a close question for McCabe whether to continue to investigate the incoming Trump National Security Adviser.
What McCabe stated next was truly incredible. He told Berman that he then learned that Flynn has arranged “surreptitious meetings” with the Russians. He explained that this was akin to investigating someone for drug dealing and then learning about his meeting with drug dealers. The problem is that there was no evidence of a crime of any kind against Flynn. Moreover, this was not a “surreptitious” meeting. There was no reason for McCabe to know about the communications of the incoming National Security Adviser with foreign officials. It was not “surreptitious.” Flynn reportedly told the transition team about the call and that the Russians wanted to talk after the newly imposed sanctions against them. It is not “surreptitious” just because McCabe did not know about it and he did not reach out to the Transition Team.
It was perfectly legal (and unsurprising) that the Russians spoke to the incoming National Security Adviser after the imposition of sanctions. Trump had stated publicly that he wanted to reframe the relations with the Russians and indicated that the review would include the sanctions. The conversation was both lawful and consistent with the position of the incoming Administration.
He also stated that he still fears that Flynn was a national security threat. Why? Because he spoke with the Russians about their opposition to the new sanctions?
The most surprising element of the interview however was not McCabe reinventing history but the complete absence of probing questions about these contradictions or the allegations against him personally in this case. For example, while McCabe was saying that he would continue to stand up for career Justice officials, there was no question about his reportedly cutting off another high-ranking official who raised concerns about this aggressive pursuit of Flynn. McCabe and James Comey were discussing the use of the Logan Act, a flagrantly unconstitutional law, to create a crime upon which to prosecute Flynn. The law has never been used to convict a single person because it is viewed as a direct violation of the First Amendment. Was that raised? Of course not.
In this story, McCabe is not a new analyst. He is news. Instead of pressing him on these conflicts and allegations, he was allowed to rage against Trump, Barr, and Flynn. It is a new twist on echo journalism. McCabe the CNN analyst was echoing his own false account and calling it news analysis.