An internal watchdog report concluded that Andrew McCabe, the fired FBI deputy director, repeatedly made misleading statements, including some to former FBI Director James B. Comey, about his efforts to influence a news story involving Hillary Clinton.
The report says McCabe either told Comey or led him to believe that he didn't know who talked to a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who was preparing an article on friction between the FBI and Justice Department over an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
That was one of four times that McCabe "lacked candor" in talking about the story, the report said. And the inspector general concluded that McCabe, who has said he was only trying to defend the reputation of the FBI, was really trying to "advance his own interests at the expense of department leadership."
The report, part of an inspector general examination of the FBI's handling of the Clinton investigations during the 2016 campaign, was sent to Congress on Friday — in the middle of a rush of media coverage of Comey's book detailing his actions during the investigation and conflicts with President Trump.
The report's findings were cited by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions last month when he made the decision to fire McCabe, just before his planned retirement. The late-night firing came after a long campaign of angry public pressure from Trump, part of his continuing attacks on the FBI and Justice Department.
Trump's rage about McCabe and Comey continued unabated Friday, as he used the report to once again try to discredit the investigation into his campaign's dealings with Russians.
"He LIED! LIED! LIED!" Trump tweeted about McCabe after the report's release.
Apparently ignoring the finding that McCabe misled Comey, Trump said "McCabe was totally controlled by Comey — McCabe is Comey!"
"No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes," the president said.
A lawyer for McCabe, Michael R. Bromwich, blamed his client's misleading statements on "misunderstanding, miscommunication, and honest failures of recollection based on the swirl of events around him, statements which he subsequently corrected."
He said the allegations were too thin to support firing McCabe, and he criticized Sessions for submitting to pressure in his "rush to terminate" McCabe.
Bromwich also said that McCabe has hired additional lawyers, including the firm of David Boies, the noted litigator, and is considering suing Trump and other officials for "wrongful termination, defamation, constitutional violations and more."
The inspector general's report said that McCabe authorized senior FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter. The reporter had heard complaints that McCabe was trying to put limits on an FBI investigation into conflicts at the Clinton Foundation. The bureau officials pushed back with another version of events, in which McCabe resisted pressure from a Justice Department official who was unhappy with the continuing pursuit of the Clinton family charity.
Comey said he told McCabe he was upset about the story, which he thought improperly confirmed the investigation and was likely to increase friction between the Justice Department and FBI.
"I had a strong impression he conveyed to me, 'It wasn't me boss,'" Comey told the internal investigators. "And I don't think that was by saying those words, I think it was most likely by saying, 'I don't know how this … gets in the media or why would people talk about this thing'…. And I actually didn't suspect Andy."
The report says McCabe twice told investigators that he didn't know anything about how the information got out. When he acknowledged that he had authorized the leak, he made more misleading statements by saying that he had told Comey about it, the report found.
Bromwich criticized the inspector general investigation for leaning too much on the "admittedly vague and uncertain" recollections of Comey about what McCabe told him.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the report makes it clear that "Sessions made the right decision" in firing McCabe.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the rush to fire McCabe "casts a tremendous shadow over the integrity of the process."
"The pattern by the White House to intimidate and malign law enforcement professionals and potential witnesses in special counsel Mueller's investigation grows more and more troubling," she said.