The wave of investigations stemming from the Justice Department under the Trump administration is “relentless,” said a former top FBI official dogged by these inquiries.
One such pursuit is special counsel John Durham’s criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation, which fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe brought up as he appeared alongside CNN anchor Pamela Brown on Friday to comment on the revelation that the Trump-era Justice Department seized data from at least two House Intelligence Committee Democrats and reporters as part of a leak investigation — a matter which is now under review by the DOJ inspector general.
Both appeared to be of the same opinion that the Trump administration was abusing law enforcement to target political adversaries, and Brown said she is “bracing” for the next big disclosure to rock the media landscape. She asked, “Who else was targeted? Who are the others?”
In response, McCabe talked about his personal experience, casting himself as being the victim of an unprecedented retaliatory campaign. That’s when he mentioned Durham’s review.
“It’s the relentless pursuit of these cases despite no factual results, right? Despite unproductive investigations. And look, that’s been my own experience. I’ve been under investigation since January of 2017, right? It’s one investigation after another. I guess if you count John Durham, then maybe I still am,” he said.
“It is the relentless pursuit of retaliation against perceived enemies, and I don’t think we’ve seen anything like that from the Justice Department or any part of this government prior to the Trump administration,” McCabe added.
McCabe, who now has a job at CNN, was fired from the FBI in early 2018 and sued the Justice Department for wrongful termination, seeking to regain his job and back pay and claiming that former President Donald Trump was behind a scheme to force him out right before he was set to retire. A federal judge ruled in September that McCabe’s lawsuit should be allowed to move toward discovery, rejecting the Trump administration’s efforts to dismiss the case.
The Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges against McCabe last year after Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in 2018 detailing multiple instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” with former FBI Director James Comey, FBI investigators, and inspector general investigators about his authorization to leak sensitive information to the Wall Street Journal that revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe said in 2019 he was the one who ordered an obstruction of justice inquiry into Trump after the firing of Comey to ensure the Russia investigation would not “vanish in the night without a trace.” He also told FBI investigators that former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sought Comey’s advice on appointing a special counsel after playing a role in his firing.
The Russia investigation, which Trump derided as a “witch hunt,” is now under review by Durham.
Durham began the review while serving as a U.S. attorney following an appointment by former Attorney General William Barr. Although Durham left his role as U.S. attorney, the Biden administration has let the inquiry continue.
Durham has so far secured only one guilty plea. FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who has since left the bureau, admitted to Durham in the summer that he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew its authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page by editing a CIA email in 2017 to state that Page was “not a source.” Page denied any wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. Clinesmith was sentenced to one year of probation and no prison time.
McCabe testified to Congress last year that he was “shocked and disappointed” by the “errors and mistakes” found in these FISA applications and expressed regret about signing off on one of the renewals. As of mid-April, McCabe and Comey were two top FBI officials whom Durham’s team had not yet interviewed, according to the New York Times.