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Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe: There Should Have Been a Special Counsel for Clinton Email Case


Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was found to have lied under oath by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, got an excerpt of his book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump in the Atlantic on Thursday that described in detail conversations he had with President Donald Trump and Rod Rosenstein about the firing of FBI director James Comey and the genesis of Robert Mueller‘s investigation.

McCabe described the aftermath of the Comey firing as tense, claiming that Rosenstein on one occasion said that there was no one he could trust to talk to about being set up by the White House to make it look like Comey’s firing was his idea.

Interestingly, McCabe said the conversation then shifted to the special counsel and whether one was necessary and prudent. McCabe actually remarked that there should have been a special counsel — for the Hillary Clinton email probe.

“He asked for my thoughts about whether we needed a special counsel to oversee the Russia case. I said I thought it would help the investigation’s credibility. Later that day, I went to see Rosenstein again. This is the gist of what I said: I feel strongly that the investigation would be best served by having a special counsel,” McCabe writes. “I’ve been thinking about the Clinton email case and how we got twisted in knots over how to announce a result that did not include bringing charges against anyone,” he says.

McCabe then says:

Had we appointed a special counsel in the Clinton case, we might not be in the present situation. Unless or until you make the decision to appoint a special counsel, the FBI will be subjected to withering criticism that could destroy the credibility of both the Justice Department and the FBI.

A couple of things from these lines stand out. First, he shorthands the Comey solo announcement that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges on Clinton by saying they were “twisted in knots over how to announce a result.” The Office of the Inspector General had stronger views about the subject.

“While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,” said Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The second thing that stood out was the assertion that a special counsel could help restore credibility and stop attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI. That hasn’t necessarily been the case, and McCabe’s comments are viewed by critics in the context of the OIG’s determination that he lied about leaking news of a Clinton Foundation investigation, calling into question McCabe’s own credibility.

McCabe’s case was referred for prosecution, though his lawyer said the standard for referral was “very low.” McCabe has not been prosecuted.

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.