Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe kept his boss in the dark for a week in May 2017 about the existence of highly consequential memoranda drafted by the then-recently fired FBI director, James Comey, until after the documents had been leaked to the media, according to Rod Rosenstein, who was the deputy attorney general at the time.
Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3 that “McCabe was not fully candid with” him about the existence of the memos, the leak of which served as the catalyst for the appointment of the special counsel.
“He certainly was not forthcoming. In particular, senator, with regard to Mr. Comey’s memoranda of his interviews with the president and with regard to the FBI’s suspicions about the president. Mr. McCabe did not reveal those to me for at least a week after he became acting director, despite the fact we had repeated conversations focusing on this investigation and for whatever reasons Mr. McCabe was not forthcoming with me about that,” Rosenstein said.
McCabe—who was fired from the FBI for lying under oath about a self-serving leak—issued a response that didn’t contradict Rosenstein’s claim about the memos, saying that he “personally briefed” Rosenstein about the memos “mere days after Mr. Rosenstein wrote the memo firing Jim Comey.”
The “mere days” McCabe referred to transpired during one of the most consequential weeks in the Trump presidency—the period between the firing of Comey and the appointment of the special counsel. After his firing, which had been formally recommended by Rosenstein, Comey leaked a series of memos he wrote about his interactions with President Donald Trump. The resulting news coverage resulted in the appointment of the special counsel.
“He did not reveal the Comey memos to me for a week. And that is true. And he revealed them to me only a couple of hours before they showed up in The New York Times,” said Rosenstein.
Rosenstein also appeared to suggest that McCabe didn’t inform him about the internal deliberations at the FBI about opening an investigation into Trump. McCabe opened the investigation on May 16, 2017, one day before Rosenstein appointed the special counsel. A day later, upon the appointment of the special counsel, Rosenstein formally removed McCabe from any involvement in the investigation of the Trump campaign.
“He did not reveal to me that he was having internal deliberations with his team about whether to target very high-profile people for investigation. And his position was that he did not have to do that until he signed off on it. And that may be true under the rules as they were written at the time, but my view was, senator, that’s the kind of thing that I needed to know,” Rosenstein said.
McCabe informed Rosenstein about opening the investigation into Trump on May 16, the same day that he revealed the existence of the Comey memos, according to a memo (pdf) written by McCabe. McCabe has alleged, and Rosenstein has denied, that at the same meeting Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to record Trump. An unnamed official who also attended the meeting described Rosenstein’s comments as sarcastic.
Rosenstein oversaw the Mueller investigation after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Mueller wrapped up the investigation after 22 months, having found no evidence of collusion between anyone on the Trump campaign and Russia.
Rosenstein became the first witness to testify as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s codename for the probe of the Trump campaign. On June 4, the committee is scheduled to authorize the chairman to issue 53 subpoenas as part of the probe.
Crossfire Hurricane was clouded by bias, according to the Department of Justice inspector general (IG). An opposition research dossier funded by the Clinton campaign and likely tainted by disinformation from Russian intelligence served as the central impetus for the FBI’s decision to apply for a surveillance warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate.
The IG has since determined that the applications for that warrant included more than a dozen significant errors or omissions.