FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stepped down from his position on Monday, less than a day after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had reviewed a four-page memo prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes about alleged FBI misdeed during the 2016 presidential election. According to the New York Times, Rosenstein pressured McCabe to leave the position. However, Rosenstein himself may be the next to fall.
According to Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch uncovered documents in 2017 that should have meant McCabe’s removal. A release from Judicial Watch -- a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group that has closely followed the investigation into Hillary Clinton, and accusations made against Donald Trump -- stated that the group was “given a full stonewall by the FBI” about McCabe’s text messages during the 2016 campaign year. “ It is concerning that Mr. McCabe was allowed to remain in the FBI as long as he did. Did Director Wray only force out McCabe because of the pending disclosures in the House dossier memo? The FBI is not above the law and the American people expect full accountability,” wrote Fitton. “We still want the text messages and we want a full investigation of the numerous anti-Trump and other outrageous FBI abuses under Obama and McCabe’s mentor, James Comey.”
Text messages exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page during the campaign revealed political sentiments in favor of Clinton but against Trump. These have led to accusations by Republicans of politically-motivated investigations and scurrilous accusations against Trump. McCabe, Strzok and Page were all involved in the abortive investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time at the State Department. Despite finding that Clinton had been “reckless” in her mishandling of classified communications, then-FBI Director James Comey found that her behavior did not merit a criminal charge.
McCabe was one of three FBI officials who were told in 2017 of an conversation between President Trump and Comey, in which Comey claimed that Trump urged him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The other two FBI officials have also recently left. The conversation is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, any cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump tried to thwart the investigation. Trump has complained that McCabe is biased because his wife received campaign funds from then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe. "How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?" Trump tweeted last month.
Judicial Watch found that McCabe’s wife, who ran for a state legislative office in Virginia in 2015, had received “massive contributions” from Terence McAuliffe -- a friend and ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton. Fitton pointed out that Deputy Director McCabe did not recuse himself from the Clinton email investigation until just a week before the 2016 presidential election. Judicial Watch also forced out documents that show that McCabe used FBI resources for his wife’s campaign.
Separately, last week, the FBI failed to turn over any McCabe text messages in a final response to a September 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that Judicial Watch filed on behalf of Jeffrey A. Danik, a 30-year veteran, retired FBI supervisory special agent, against the Department of Justice for records related to McCabe (Jeffrey A. Danik v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01792)). The lawsuit seeks text messages and emails of McCabe containing: Dr. Jill McCabe, Jill, Common Good VA, Terry McAuliffe, Clinton, Virginia Democratic Party, Democrat, Conflict, Senate, Virginia Senate, Until I return, Paris, France, Campaign, Run, Political, Wife, Donation, OGC, Email, or New York Times.
Earlier this month, Judicial Watch sued for the text messages of FBI official Strzok and FBI attorney Page. Judicial Watch contends that the text messages are of public interest because Strzok and Page were key investigators in the Clinton email and Trump Russia collusion investigations. Strzok was reportedly removed from the Mueller investigative team in August and reassigned to a human resources position after it was discovered that he and Page, who worked for McCabe, exchanged pro-Clinton and anti-Trump text messages.
Reaction to McCabe’s departure was mixed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted on Monday, "FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is, and has been, a dedicated public servant who has served this country well. Bogus attacks on the FBI and DOJ to distract attention from a legitimate criminal inquiry does long term, unnecessary damage to these foundations of our government." Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) warned President Trump on Twitter that he should not replace McCabe with a political ally. "Andrew McCabe should not be replaced with a presidential stooge put in place just to kill the Russia investigation, Donald Trump," Castro wrote. Democrats charge that Republicans have cherry-picked facts to exonerate Trump and implicate Rosenstein and other FBI and DOJ officials.
Republicans have almost universally condemned McCabe for alleged bias. Some of the emails exchanged between Strzok and Page were sharply critical of Trump, while others expressed doubts that Trump would win. “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok wrote to Page in August 2016.
“The news that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down is a step forward," Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said on Monday. "To restore its vaunted reputation, and to restore the American people’s trust, the FBI to must do what it can to move forward with a clean slate. McCabe’s resignation was the right choice, and a step in the right direction."
Jay Sekulow, who is one of Trump’s attorneys, said on his online radio show on Monday, "It sounds to me [like] [FBI Director] Chris Wray is saying we’ve got to clean this mess up. This is a mess…That’s what we’re speculating," Sekulow said on his online radio show Monday. "This is the No. 2 at the FBI. I cannot underscore how big this is.”
Deputy AG Rosenstein in trouble
Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is rumored to be the next shoe to drop at the Department of Justice. The memo prepared by Rep. Nunes (R-Calif.), whose release appears imminent, reveals that Rosenstein approved the renewal of surveillance on a former Trump campaign associate Carter Page shortly after taking office last spring, according to POLITICO. The document shows that the Department of Justice in the Trump administration believed that Carter Page was acting as a Russian agent. The memo reportedly seeks to show that FBI and DOJ officials did not sufficiently explain to a judge in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, in seeking a warrant to surveil Carter Page, had used research by former British spy Christopher Steele and paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The so-called Trump dossier was leaked to the media and has been the grist of rumors and conspiracy theories.
On January 22, Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity suggested that Rosenstein should be fired and investigated. Fitton of Judicial Watch said on Justice with Jeanine Pirro on Saturday that there should be “pressure on the FBI to clean out its ranks at the leadership level,” adding, “If Rod Rosenstein isn’t going to do it, they should find someone who will.” Pirro has repeatedly called for the arrests of DOJ and FBI leaders. She responded to Fitton, saying: “I got to tell you I couldn’t agree with you more. That place is dirty.”
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone said on "The Ingraham Angle" that Rosenstein “is not on the level” and should be fired.
Comey eulogizes McCabe
Former FBI Director James Comey tweeted words of support to McCabe on Monday and wrote that he “stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on.”
Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.— James Comey (@Comey) January 30, 2018