McCabe says his Russia probe work sparked smear campaign before firing

Source: Politico | March 16, 2018 | Elana Schor

The former FBI deputy director also calls his ordeal ‘personally devastating.’

The president has targeted him in highly personal terms. Conservatives have slammed him as tainted with bias. And on Friday night, the Department of Justice fired Andrew McCabe a little more than 24 hours before his scheduled retirement.

The dismissal from his decades-long home at the department marks an ignominious end to a once-storied career for McCabe, who stepped aside as FBI deputy director in January. That departure came ahead of an inspector general’s inquiry that’s expected to criticize his handling of an October 2016 media report on his wife’s failed run for the Virginia State Senate and his handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton.

But McCabe sees bigger forces at work in the Justice Department inspector general’s inquiry — which he views as part of a broader campaign to impugn him for his role in handling the FBI’s Russia investigation and his ties to special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Look, it’s personally devastating. It’s so tough on my family,” he told POLITICO during a wide-ranging interview conducted earlier this month, before his firing.

“But at some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,” said McCabe, 49, who says he has voted for every Republican presidential nominee until he sat out the 2016 contest entirely. “And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.”

“They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted,” McCabe added. “And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.”

While McCabe has been accused of a lack of candor during the inspector general’s review, it is still unclear exactly what led the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility to recommend his firing.

During an hourlong conversation, McCabe declined to comment or elaborate on the accusations against him. He also declined to allege any direct undue influence by President Donald Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the investigation into Russian electoral meddling, which is now helmed by Mueller. But he recalled making what he described as significant moves to bolster the investigation during the tumultuous six weeks between Sessions’ recusal and the May 2017 appointment of Mueller, a former FBI chief who helped McCabe rise through the Justice Department ranks.

McCabe said that when he was tapped as acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey on May 9, 2017, he also learned that “I might not be in the position for a long time.”

“I literally walked into the building every day expecting that I would be removed from my position before the end of the day,” he added. “And if that happened, I didn’t want anyone to be able to just walk away from the work that we had done” on the Russia investigation.

One step McCabe said he took then: pressing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for a special counsel. Another step: briefing congressional leaders in both parties, who get highly classified briefings as the so-called Gang of Eight, about what he was doing.

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