WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors will not file criminal charges in a leak investigation of Andrew McCabe, ending a case 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 in the District of Columbia told McCabe’s attorney in a letter Friday.
The decision comes a day after Attorney General William Barr sought to distance himself from President Donald Trump for his constant attacks on the Justice Department.
For years, Trump has called for the prosecution of several former FBI officials, including McCabe.
“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.”
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.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe just before his retirement in March 2018.
In a statement, McCabe attorneys Michael Bromwich and David Schertler said: “At long last, justice has been done in this matter. We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought. We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them.”
McCabe, who became acting FBI director after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James 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.
The 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 Aug. 29 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 the memos 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 while talking to Comey, when questioned under oath by FBI agents and again when questioned under oath by investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller.
McCabe filed a lawsuit in August challenging his dismissal, alleging he was fired because he refused to cater to Trump’s “unlawful whims.” McCabe’s abrupt termination came after he had announced his intention to resign and days before his retirement benefits would have kicked in.
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 comes amid inquiries into how the Justice Department and the FBI initiated investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review, launched in March 2018, centers on an FBI wiretap of Carter Page, a former policy adviser to Trump’s campaign. That report is forthcoming.
The inspector general has been examining whether the FBI violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, when it sought court-ordered surveillance of Page in late 2016.
Horowitz also examined the FBI’s relationship and communication with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was hired by a research firm working for Clinton’s campaign. Steele compiled a now-infamous “dossier” alleging links between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Republicans have complained that the FBI concealed its reliance on Steele’s findings when applying for permission to wiretap Page. But copies of those applications, released after USA TODAY and others sued, showed investigators did disclose to judges that Steele was seeking information to “discredit” Trump, and that investigators had broader suspicions about Page’s ties to the Russian government.
Mueller took over the Russia investigation in May 2017, after Trump fired Comey. Mueller’s report, released in April, detailed a “sweeping and systematic” effort by the Russian government to intercede in the election to help Trump win, but said neither the president nor his campaign conspired with Russians.
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