WASHINGTON – The Justice Department will not file criminal charges in a leak investigation of Andrew McCabe, ending an investigation that has hung over the former deputy FBI director for two years.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the Government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia told McCabe’s attorneys in a letter Friday.
The decision comes amid allegations that the Justice Department has bowed to pressure from President Donald Trump, most recently by reversing course on the recommended sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone.
Trump attacked the career prosecutors who handled Stone’s case after they asked a judge to sentence the longtime GOP operative to seven to nine years in prison. The Justice Department backtracked, and the entire prosecution team quit in apparent protest.
On Thursday, Barr said Trump did not ask him to intervene in the case.
“I am not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board or the president,” Barr said in an ABC News interview. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
Trump has called for the prosecution of several former FBI officials, including McCabe. He opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump in 2017, after the president fired FBI director James Comey.
At the time, Comey was leading an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
McCabe, a CNN contributor, told the cable channel he’s looking forward to celebrating with family and friends.
“It’s been so unbelievably tense and just such an incredible pressure on all of us,” McCabe said. “We’re all very, very happy. I’m just so glad my kids don’t have to live with this anymore.”
He said the announcement would allow him to continue to comment on government actions.
“I am enjoying finally having the opportunity to speak publicly about things that I believe deeply in, about concerns that we all have about our country, and the way things are going,” said McCabe, whom former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired just hours before his retirement in March 2018.
McCabe has since sued the Justice Department over his firing, accusing officials of unjustly demoting and terminating him to cater to Trump’s “unlawful whims.”
McCabe inquiry focused on leak about Clinton Foundation investigation
The investigation into McCabe stemmed from a Justice Department Inspector General’s report that found he improperly authorized a leak about a federal investigation into the Clinton Foundation in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. Investigators concluded he displayed a lack of candor when asked about the leak.
McCabe, who became acting FBI director after Trump fired Comey in May 2017, has been a frequent target of the president’s attacks. Trump contends law enforcement officials launched partisan investigations of him, his campaign and his administration. Those probes have led to convictions of a half-dozen of Trump’s onetime aides and advisers.
Trump applauded Sessions’ decision to fire McCabe, calling it “a great day for democracy.” Trump has argued McCabe’s conduct was akin to treason, claiming he favored Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent for president in 2016.
One of several investigations into wrongdoing by top FBI officials
Friday’s decision caps a series of accusations of wrongdoing by the FBI’s top leaders in 2016. Internal investigators have faulted McCabe and Comey for violating Justice Department rules in the final months of an election in which federal agents were investigating both major-party candidates. Lower-level FBI staffers were fired or reassigned.
The Justice Department announced in August that Comey had violated FBI policies for keeping private memos about his conversations with Trump and then having a friend describe the contents of some of them to The New York Times. But the department didn’t charge Comey with a crime.
McCabe was fired after the inspector general investigated whether a Wall Street Journal story about the Clinton Foundation resulted from an unauthorized leak and if so, who leaked it. The story appeared online Oct. 30, 2016, and in print the next day, which was a week after another story reported that McCabe had terminated the foundation probe under pressure from the Justice Department.
Investigators determined that McCabe authorized associates to tell The Wall Street Journal about an Aug. 12 call between him and the principal associate deputy attorney general. The call effectively confirmed the existence of the Clinton Foundation investigation, which Comey had refused to do.
McCabe allowed the release of that information in order to show he was impartial regarding the Clinton Foundation investigation, even as his wife accepted a campaign contribution from a Clinton ally.
The inspector general found McCabe “lacked candor” when he said he hadn’t authorized the disclosure and didn’t know who did. This happened several times, including when McCabe talked to Comey, when he was questioned under oath by FBI agents, and when he was questioned under oath by investigators for former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump called McCabe “a major sleazebag” and has said he took “massive amounts of money” for his wife’s unsuccessful Democratic campaign for state Senate in Virginia.
Trump was referring to contributions Jill McCabe received from a political action committee tied to former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally.
But internal FBI documents showed that McCabe didn’t oversee the Clinton Foundation investigation while his wife was running for office, and he didn’t have a conflict of interest.
The decision about McCabe follows inquiries into how the Justice Department and the FBI initiated investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr assigned one internal probe in May.
In December, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded the FBI’s surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page was riddled with errors, but said the FBI was justified in launching its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.