I personally was amazed at the indiscretion of McCabe's remarks, especially given that he is undoubtedly a target of the Barr/Durham investigation. His remarks reveal him to be an idiot who seems to have thought that FBI regulations and guidelines didn't apply when he was targeting people based on his personal political biases. That's about the most charitable way to describe his "defense" of what he actually did, because his remarks reveal that there really was no justification for his actions.
To start with, McCabe is continuing to put forward what we all know is a lie:
McCabe said the FBI opened its case in late July 2016 based on information about Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.
The Crossfire Hurricane is now established to have been an "enterprise counterintelligence investigation." While it's possible that "information" about Papadopoulos--really, inventions based on OCONUS targeting of Papadopoulos that had no rational basis (which is why the targeting was done in the UK, not the US)--could have formed part of the predication for Crossfire Hurricane, multiple witnesses have made it abundantly clear that Crossfire Hurricane was primarily, overwhelmingly, predicated on Brit ex-MI6 operative Christopher Steele's "dossier." That dossier, of course, was produced at the direction of the Hillary Clinton campaign and was paid for by the Clinton campaign. Steele was a foreign operative in the pay of the Clinton campaign (his continuing close ties to MI6 were never a secret).
From that point we can proceed in two directions. The direction that Crossfire Hurricane took and the further use that was made of the Steele dossier in obtaining a FISA on Carter Page.
Regarding the investigation itself, McCabe makes the following remarkable statement:
McCabe indicated that investigators decided only after opening a case against Papadopoulos to add three other Trump officials to the investigation.
“We open the case, and then we think, ‘OK, now who are we actually going to investigate?'”
That's unbelievable--literally unbelievable. If the FBI really thought that they had a case against Papadopoulos, why would they then ask themselves: "OK, now who are we actually going to investigate?” The answer is obvious: Papadopoulos! Naturally, if in investigating Papadopoulos the FBI should come across further evidence that implicates other persons, well, those persons can be added to the investigation--but that's not what McCabe is saying. If--and I'll get into this below--there is evidence against others at the time the case on Papadopoulos (supposedly) is opened, then you open on all of those persons at the same time. In terms of sound investigative procedure, this is all nonsense.
In fact, there's a mountain of evidence that shows that the FBI focused at once and exclusively on the Trump campaign and that they were already looking at all of the eventual subjects. Consider these three factors all pointing to the fact that the FBI knew exactly who they were "actually going to investigate."
1) McCabe's own statement that Crossfire Hurricane was opened based on information about Papadopoulos. That statement, of course, is now known to be untrue, but the point is that McCabe continues to trot it out as an explanation for FBI actions in initiating an investigation shows that they were focused on people--not on vague allegations of "Russian meddling."
2) The Steele dossier, which we know from testimony by Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr really was the basis for Crossfire Hurricane, names the figures in the Trump campaign who were immediately targeted. Paul Manafort and Carter Page very early on, but Michael Cohen shortly after Crossfire Hurricane was opened. Further, we know from Page and Ohr that Crossfire Hurricane was opened immediately upon Ohr transmitting the Steele info to McCabe and Lisa Page personally.
3) All the FBI "brass"--Comey, James Baker, and Andy McCabe (not to mention Bruce Ohr and Andrew Weissmann and others at DoJ who were "in the loop" of the FBI investigation) had personal knowledge that they were dealing with information coming from the Hillary campaign, both from its lawyers as well as from Glenn Simpson's oppo research shop at Fusion GPS.
So, McCabe's statement doesn't pass the laugh test.
But now look at how McCabe justifies the targeting of the subjects whom Comey described to the House as the "four Americans" who were investigated in Crossfire Hurricane:
“We open the case, and then we think, ‘OK, now who are we actually going to investigate?'” he said.
“Who do we know who is associated with the campaign who has known, significant ties to Russian intelligence?” he asked rhetorically. “We quickly come up with four names that will not surprise you.”
McCabe identified Papadopoulos, Manafort, Flynn and Page.
He cited Manafort’s longstanding work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party, and Flynn’s “very public interactions with Vladimir Putin and other Russians,” as the rationale for investigating the two Trump advisers.
McCabe said Page was included because of the energy consultant’s past involvement in a counterintelligence investigation of a group of suspected Russian spies.
Again, this is all utter nonsense, in terms of serving as predication for a Full Counterintelligence Investigation of American persons under the Guidelines that govern the conduct of FBI investigations.
First, note the bar that McCabe sets: Investigation will be initiated on persons in the Trump campaign who have "known, significant ties to Russian intelligence." In terms of predication to open a Full Counterintelligence Investigation on a US Person, what McCabe's words mean is that there is essentially probably cause to believe that the person in question is an agent who takes directions from "Russian intelligence." Anything less than that will not suffice as predication. Fine. Now look at how McCabe purports to establish such "known, significant ties" with Russian intelligence on the part of those three named persons.
Paul Manafort worked for a "pro-Russian Ukrainian political party." Consider the dynamics involved here, in terms of both history and current politics. Ukraine was part of Russia from 1775 up to 1991. So, essentially throughout the duration of the United States of American. The cultural and political ties run very deep. As a result, Ukrainian politics--which are easily as complex as American politics--is dominated by debate over the question whether Ukraine should seek closer ties with the West or should continue to cultivate close ties with Russia, even while maintaining Ukraine's independence. "Pro-Russian" in Ukrainian politics does not mean favoring relinquishing Ukrainian independence. It's a rational position based on cultural, historical, and economic considerations. As a matter of our own foreign policy, Americans may prefer that Ukraine should be hostile to Russia, but that's an issue on which Americans are allowed to disagree--just as Ukrainians disagree on their own foreign policies with regard both to Russia as well as Western countries.
Now, with that in mind, ask yourself: How does Paul Manafort working as a political consultant for a "Pro-Russian" political party in Ukraine specifically demonstrate that he is an agent of Russian intelligence? Answer: It doesn't.
Michael Flynn sat at the same dinner table with Vladimir Putin--and other Russians! In public! And with other non-Russians. Are we to suppose that no other American with a background similar to Flynn's ever associated with Putin in public? Exactly how does having a meal at the same table with Putin, at a large banquet, translate into Flynn being an agent of Russian intelligence? Answer: It doesn't.
Carter Page assisted an FBI counterintelligence investigation of suspected Russian spies in New York. His assistance was cited in court filings against those Russians. How does assisting the FBI against Russians translate into a "known, significant [relationship with] Russian intelligence," being an agent of Russian intelligence? Answer: It doesn't.
I'm not sure how to express strongly enough how nonsensical McCabe's statements are from any rational, legal standpoint. His remarks--in public!--far from defending his his actions, demonstrate conclusively that there was no basis whosoever for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Ever.
Let's turn to McCabe's supposed "defense" of the FBI's use of the Steele dossier:
“It is raw source reporting,” McCabe said, “and Steele presented it as such.”
“We knew that Steele was working a number of different sources, some of which has sub-sources, and sub-sub-sources, and he would represent that in the reporting, as any good source should. It didn’t come with his imprimatur of, ‘this is all gospel.’ It was like, ‘this is what I’m hearing,'” said McCabe, who is under Justice Department investigation.
I'm trying to imagine myself, in a previous life, sending a FISA application to FBIHQ and telling them that I want a FISA on a US person because "this is what I’m hearing." "Hey," I would tell them, "it doesn't come with an imprimatur, it's not all gospel, but this is, like, what I'm hearing."
For starters, that application would never have been signed by my superiors and, if by some incredible oversight it had made its way to FBIHQ, those superiors would have received a well deserved dressing down from FBIHQ. And instructions never to submit such drivel again. And, mind you, that would have been the response in the case of any garden variety FISA application. Imagine what the response would have been if I said I wanted to target the POTUS! I probably would have been sent for psychological testing--as McCabe should be.
McCabe said Steele had “a very solid track record” of providing information to the FBI.
I beg to differ. In fact, Steele's track record--leaving aside his work for the oppo research branch of a political campaign in this case--was not clearly as solid as McCabe wants us to believe. There are serious problems concerning Steele's past track record: Just How Reliable Is Christopher Steele?
“Some of it he felt was pretty solid, others he made clear, like, ‘Hey, I’m getting this from one person, and I can’t vouch for this sourcing chain, and I’m just giving it to you for your information.'”
Republicans have accused the FBI of misleading the FISA court by relying on Steele’s unverified allegations to obtain the warrants. They’ve ramped up that criticism in the wake of the special counsel’s report, which undercut some of Steele’s most explosive allegations.
Some of it he "felt" was "pretty solid?" Uh, yeah. And did it pan out? Of course not. And by the time McCabe was leaking to CNN and opening an obstruction case on Trump, and helping Rosenstein set up the Special Counsel thing it was well known that the Steele dossier was unverified and unverifiable. But, again, I'm trying to imagine myself submitting a FISA application with the line in it: Hey, my source feels this is pretty solid. The mind boggles.
Finally, the article relates another episode in McCabe's war on Trump, although McCabe didn't address it himself. However it is worth considering in the overall context. You'll recall that a meeting was held in the Oval Office on January 5, 2017, at which Obama, Biden, Comey, Susan Rice, and Sally Yates discussed how to deal with the incoming Trump administration. The very next day, Comey traveled to New York and met with the president elect. At that meeting Comey sought to elicit incriminating or otherwise damaging admissions or statements from Trump by "briefing" or confronting Trump with the most salacious--and unverifiable--contents of the Steele dossier. Comey specifically suggested that these allegations were in the hands of the media and would shortly be appearing to the public. And so it happened--CNN went public. So:
Before CNN’s report, McCabe sent emails within the FBI and to then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates saying the network was likely going to publish details about the dossier.
“Flood is coming,” read the subject line of McCabe’s Jan. 8, 2017, email to FBI leaders.
“CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story,” he wrote, referring to the dossier. “The trigger for [CNN] is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment.”
It is unclear how McCabe knew that CNN was working on the story.
A real puzzler, that one, isn't it? However, what caught my eye was the subject line of McCabe's email: "Flood is coming." To me, that sounds gloating or even exultant. As if he believes the flood that's coming will sweep Trump away.
In closing, I suggest that readers consider how all of this will play out if McCabe ever finds himself in the witness stand--whether defending his own actions or called as a defense witness for others. I submit that his remarks here--and others he has made--would be used by prosecutors to portray him as an out of control official who failed to follow regulations but instead followed his personal prejudices. If I were a defense attorney, I would be very disturbed at the thought of having to utilize McCabe as a witness. And I'm astounded that his legal team would allow him to go around saying these things publicly.
ADDENDUM: In reading McCabes' remarks I was struck by something that I didn't feel able to address above. It appears that McCabe is suggesting or attempting to give his listeners the impression that the FBI opened some sort of general "Russian meddling" investigation. That's simply not true, and the impression is completely undercut by his claim that the investigation (Crossfire Hurricane) was in fact opened based on the FBI's overseas targeting of George Papadopoulos. Again, this is the type of statement that would be used by prosecutors to simply destroy McCabe's credibility as a witness.