Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said he briefed a bipartisan group of congressional leaders about the FBI’s counterintelligence operation into President Donald Trump in May 2017, and that none of them objected.
“No one objected — not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts,” he said Tuesday in an interview on NBC’s “Today,” ahead of the release of his book about his time at the FBI under Trump.
McCabe — who replaced James Comey after Trump abruptly fired him in May 2017 amid the bureau’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia — previously confirmed that as acting director, he signed off on the opening of two investigations into Trump: one investigating whether Trump obstructed justice when firing Comey, and another investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and whether Trump won the 2016 presidential election with the aid of the Russian government.
The investigations are now under the purview of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed after Comey’s sudden dismissal.
The FBI thought it “might be possible” that Trump was working for Russia, McCabe said Tuesday.
“Why would any president of the United States not want the FBI to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election?” he asked.
McCabe wrote in his book that he believed briefing the Gang of Eight would draw “an indelible line” around the cases they had opened in connection with the Russia investigation. He wrote that the chances that the news didn’t get back to the president was “basically zero,” and that once Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) ― who was the head of the House Intelligence Committee at the time ― walked in, it was “less than zero.” McCabe said deputy Attorney General Rosenstein pulled Nunes aside and tried to talk to him about leaving, but Nunes told Rosenstein he wasn’t going to leave.
McCabe’s book, which had to be cleared by the government, is circumspect about some aspects on the Russia investigation and what the Gang of Eight was told. The book says the group was told of four investigations ― into Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort ― as well as “others that may have gone forward.” After briefing the group on those four investigations as well as “additional steps we had taken,” McCabe wrote that the “mood in the room was sober,” and that no one interrupted or pushed back.
A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Gang of Eight, declined to comment on McCabe’s characterization of the 2017 congressional briefing.
McCabe on Tuesday also attempted to clarify previous revelations, including alleged discussions among Justice Department officials about removing Trump from office using the 25th Amendment, and Rosenstein suggesting he wear a wire in order to record his discussions with Trump.
McCabe said he chose not to mention either in the book because talk about them had “become a quite a distraction from the points that I am trying to make.”
But he suggested discussions about the 25th Amendment did occur, and he insisted that Rosenstein’s comment was not made in jest, as was previously reported.
“It wasn’t a joke. He was deadly serious,” McCabe said.
The Justice Department has denied McCabe’s account, saying that Rosenstein “rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
Ryan Reilly and Igor Bobic contributed to this report.