Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions sacked former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, for “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when he testified about his contacts with Russian operatives, ABC News reports Wednesday.
Democratic lawmakers repeatedly had accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, ABC News noted. But McCabe’s decision to put AG Sessions under an FBI probe is news.
An attorney repping Sessions declined to confirm to ABC whether Sessions was aware he had been under investigation for lack of candor when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday. Sessions fired McCabe less than 48 hours before the former FBI deputy director was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension.
Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers had been informed of the probe. That during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources.
McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after Dem Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then Dem Sen. Al Franken, sent the FBI a letter in March of ’17 urging the bureau to investigate “all contacts” Sessions may have had with Russians, and “whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.”
During his confirmation in January 2017, Sessions told the Senate committee that he had not been in contact with anyone connected to the Russian government about the 2016 election. He also said he was “not aware” of anyone else affiliated with the Trump campaign communicating with the Russian government ahead of the election.
Two months later, Washington Post report disputed Sessions testimony. WaPo reported, and then AG Sessions acknowledged he had met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak two times during the presidential campaign. This time Sessions insisted those interactions were not “to discuss issues of the campaign.”
Sessions “made no attempt to correct his misleading testimony until The Washington Post revealed that, in fact, he had at least two meetings with the Russian ambassador,” Leahy and Franken said in a statement at the time. “We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes.”
“We are concerned by Attorney General Sessions’ lack of candor to the Committee and his failure thus far to accept responsibility for testimony that could be construed as perjury,” Leahy and Franken said in their March 2017 letter to then-FBI director James Comey. President Donald Trump fired Comey two months later, ABC News noted.
McCabe was fired Friday after the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded McCabe misled investigators looking into how DOJ and FBI officials handled issues pertaining to the 2016 presidential election.
In October 2016, hoping to push back on a series of news reports questioning whether he might be trying to protect Hillary Clinton, McCabe authorized two FBI officials to speak with a reporter about his efforts to boost the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation. Sessions charged that McCabe “lacked candor” under oath “on multiple occasions” when questioned about that decision, adding “our integrity is our brand.”
McCabe, a lifelong Republican, insists he was “being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.”
McCabe, via a rep, declined to comment for ABC News’ report.