“We write to inform you that, after careful consideration, the Government has decided not to pursue criminal charges against your client, Andrew G. McCabe,” prosecutors J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston wrote on behalf of the new U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Tim Shea. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the Government at this time, we consider the matter closed.”
McCabe expressed great relief at the decision, but sounded bitter about the probe hanging over him and his family for years.
“I have to say that as glad as I am that the Justice Department and the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office finally decided to do the right thing today, it is an absolute disgrace that they took two years and put my family through this experience for two years before they finally drew the obvious conclusion and one they could have drawn a long, long time ago,” he said on CNN, where he serves as a paid commentator.
McCabe’s attorneys also welcomed the development, which they said they first learned about Friday morning in a phone call from the prosecution after months of silence about the status of the probe.
“At long last, justice has been done in this matter,” attorneys Michael Bromwich and David Schertler said in a statement. “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.”
The confirmation of a formal end to the criminal investigation into McCabe’s conduct came amid a highly public tug-of-war between Trump and the Justice Department over the handling of cases and investigations he has taken a keen interest in. The development also comes just one day after an extraordinary interview in which Attorney General Bill Barr openly rebuked the president for his frequent attacks on the work of federal prosecutors.
McCabe said Friday he was concerned that the president’s recent fusillade of attacks against federal prosecutors could drag out his case even further.
“Certainly, the president’s kind of revenge tirade following his acquittal in the impeachment proceeding has only kind of amplified my concerns about what would happen in my own case,” McCabe said on CNN. “The timing this week — coming on the tails of all the controversy over the Roger Stone sentencing — is curious.”
Trump seems certain to view the abandonment of the McCabe probe as another provocation from Justice and more proof of a “deep state” cabal there working to undercut the president’s allies and aid his enemies.
When a jury convicted longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone last November of lying to Congress and obstructing investigations into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump invoked Justice’s failure to charge McCabe as evidence of a double standard.
“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,” Trump wrote. “Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?”
After more than 20 years at the FBI, McCabe was fired in 2018 following findings by the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility that he displayed a “lack of candor” in his dealings with internal investigators and a top Justice Department official.
The Justice Department watchdog report released in April 2018 found McCabe was not forthcoming with former Director James Comey and with FBI investigators about McCabe’s involvement in the FBI’s handling of media inquiries about an FBI probe into the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 campaign.
The inspector general report said McCabe led Comey to believe he did not authorize disclosing that politically-sensitive investigation and that McCabe affirmatively denied any role in that to internal FBI investigators. McCabe has denied any intentional effort to mislead, but said he was preoccupied with other weighty matters at the time and may have failed to remember some conversations.
While Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review found McCabe was less than candid, he referred the matter to federal prosecutors to consider whether criminal charges for perjury or making false statements were appropriate.
Justice Department leaders also used Horowitz’s findings to initiate a disciplinary process against McCabe. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions wound up firing McCabe just one day before he would have been eligible for an early retirement pension available to law enforcement officers.
Trump has repeatedly slammed McCabe, even suggesting he was in cahoots with some of those who carried out his firing.
“Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught,” Trump tweeted last February.
Many of Trump’s attacks on McCabe have also focused on the unsuccessful bid his wife, Jill, mounted for the Virginia state senate in 2015. Trump has suggested that McCabe’s role in FBI cases was tainted as a result of her campaign and support it received from a political committee tied to then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), a longtime ally of President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
McCabe says he sought ethics advice and recused from Virginia-related political investigations while his wife was running. However, the inspector general said that because of questions that arose about McCabe’s role, he should not have been making key decisions for the FBI about how to respond to such criticism, including by confirming the Clinton Foundation probe and telling a reporter that McCabe had clashed with a Justice Department official over the handling of that inquiry.
The decision to drop the criminal probe into McCabe’s actions will not mark the end of legal wrangling over his actions. He is suing the Justice Department, arguing that officials short-circuited long established FBI and DOJ procedures to rush him out in order to appease the president.
The timing of Friday’s letter to McCabe’s lawyers may have been driven by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by a non-profit watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Washington. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, who is handling the FOIA case, had publicly pressed prosecutors to make a final decision about the McCabe prosecution and had set a deadline Friday for them to disclose previously-secret records related to the FOIA litigation.
The newly-disclosed files showed that in private, Walton was even more stern with prosecutors, warning them that Trump’s complaints about McCabe would taint any decision they made.
“The public is listening to what’s going on, and I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted … I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road,” Walton told government lawyers behind closed doors in September. “I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undo inappropriate pressure being brought to bear … It’s just, it’s very disturbing that we’re in the mess that we’re in in that regard.
“I just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government,” added Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush. “I think it’s very unfortunate. And I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”
Quint Forgey contributed to this report.