McCabe Ordered Investigation of Sessions

Andrew McCabe, fired for a "lack of candor," ordered an investigation of the Attorney General for a "lack of candor."

ABC News (“EXCLUSIVE: Fired FBI official authorized criminal probe of Sessions, sources say“):

Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe’s previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move.

One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were informed of the probe during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News was told.

Within weeks, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation and related inquiries, including the Sessions matter.

Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller’s team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions.

“The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday.

According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate “all contacts” Sessions may have had with Russians, and “whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.”

It’s unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions’ interview with Mueller’s investigators. It’s also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress – or others – since his confirmation.

Aside from the mild irony of McCabe ordering an investigation of Sessions for exactly the same thing Sessions ostensibly fired McCabe for, this strikes me as more than a little peculiar. Consider:

The Senators wrote the letter in March 2017 demanding an investigation by the FBI of their boss. That is, to say the least, an awkward situation.

Bob Mueller was appointed as special counsel to investigate the broader Russia matter on May 17, 2017. The whole purpose of a special counsel is to remove the appearance of a conflict of interest.

So, did McCabe start an investigation sometime in the six to ten weeks between the letter and Mueller’s appointment? If so, that’s mighty fast in making such an odd choice. And did McCabe make the call on his own? I’d presume a decision of this magnitude would have been approved by the Director—still Jim Comey unless the decision was made between his firing on May 9 and Mueller’s appointment eight days later. Which, one would think, would have further fed a desire to fire Comey.

Further, if the investigation was started before Mueller’s appointment, wouldn’t it have been immediately halted and turned over to Mueller? Sessions’ testimony about Russia was certainly under his remit and turning it over to him would have gotten the FBI—already under fire for its handling of the Clinton emails and the Russia matter—out of an awkward situation.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Setting aside the internal processes that led to Sessions’ firing McCabe it is quite clear to me that Sessions could easily be fired and stripped of his pension if the standard that was applied to McCabe was applied to Sessions.

    Sessions might be the sleaziest AG since John Mitchell, back in those buttoned-down and obsessed with ethics and honesty Nixon years.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Sessions is both a complete piece of sh!t and the most ethical member of Trump’s cabinet aside from Mattis.

  3. JKB says:

    Everyone seems so upset over the Attorney General following the advice of the FBI on whow to proceed after the completion of an FBI/DOJ investigation.

    What we don’t know is if Jill McCabe and Jeff Sessions ran into each other at an airport far, far from DC and had a lengthy chat about grandchildren.

  4. JohnMcC says:

    Thanks for the timeline. I’d given the sequential nature of these various stories some thought and tried to imagine how things fit in the ‘tic-toc’ without much success. It did make me imagine some future history major trying to figure out a mnemonic to help him keep this administration properly sequenced. Then a mnemonic for the mnemonic and then….

  5. Bob@Youngstown says:


    how to proceed after the completion of an FBI/DOJ investigation.

    Please tell us where you read the completed investigation.

  6. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: You do realize that’s a bar that a snake can’t limbo under, right?

  7. @JKB:

    What we don’t know is if Jill McCabe and Jeff Sessions ran into each other at an airport far, far from DC and had a lengthy chat about grandchildren.

    The obsession with the Bill Clinton-Loretta Lynch meeting in some quarters really has hit the level of parody. Should Clinton have had that meeting? No. Is it some kind of proof of a massive conspiracy or an event that nullifies all accusations against Trump/the Russia investigation? No.

    You might as well just type “Benghazi!!!!!!!!”