'Ugly and deeply disturbing': Trump's DOJ appears primed to indict ex-FBI chief Andrew McCabe

'Ugly and deeply disturbing': Trump's DOJ appears primed to indict ex-FBI chief Andrew McCabe
PBS NewsHour screenshot

A top U.S. official in the has told former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe that the Justice Department has rejected his argument to avoid charges for his conduct while working at the bureau, according to multiple reports on Thursday including NBC News.


This strongly suggests that the department will move forward with charges against McCabe, who has been a target of President Donald Trump's wrath for his involvement in the Russia investigation. That probe, and concerns McCabe had about the president's efforts to interfere in it, eventually led to the work and report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who provided ample evidence that the president attempted to obstruct justice in the course of the investigation. Democrats are currently investigating these facts for potentially impeachable offenses.

But the conduct that appears to have gotten McCabe into trouble with the Justice Department is actually largely unrelated to the Russia case.

Instead, the charges apparently stem from an inspector general's review of McCabe's decision in October 2016 to give information to the Wall Street Journal about investigations into Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, as well as internal debates in the Justice Department about those matters. The IG concluded that McCabe's disclosure was improper and thus constituted misconduct, though in his position as then-deputy FBI director he had the authority to permit releases of information to the press. More seriously, the IG found that McCabe "lacked candor" in the course of the investigation of the disclosures, a finding which led to his firing just hours before he was set to resign and would have been qualified for a full pension.

At the time, with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions still in charge of the department, many believed McCabe's premature termination was retaliation against someone the president received as an enemy, especially given the timing.

That would be bad enough, and McCabe is suing the government, alleging he was wrongfully terminated. But now, with prosecutors apparently set bring charges against McCabe, the prospect that the president is using the Justice Department — now run by Attorney General Bill Barr, who is clearly a devout Trump partisan — to punish his political foes looms even larger.

"DOJ is going down an ugly and deeply disturbing path here," said Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare, about the news.

Former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller said: "The pressure for this indictment has come from the president through his political appointees at Main Justice from day one."

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