WASHINGTON — “This is the only time I am aware of, sir.” “I have not seen that before, sir.” “I’ve never seen that.”
These are just some of the words utilized by former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe when asked during closed door testimony about an email penned by disgraced ex-FBI chief James Comey circulating a draft statement exonerating Hillary Clinton in the private email server case a full two months before the FBI interviewed Clinton and other witnesses in the criminal probe.
Documents previously released by the FBI show that Comey on May 2, 2016 sent the email in question to McCabe, FBI general counsel James Baker and chief of staff and senior counselor James Rybicki. Clinton was interviewed by the FBI on June 2, with Comey later testifying that she was not sworn in and that the interview was not recorded.
Two months before Clinton’s FBI interview, Comey circulated the draft statement testing language to be used for not recommending charges against Clinton.
Former Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee at the time of McCabe’s December 21, 2017 testimony, read aloud Comey’s email. A transcript of the testimony was released three weeks ago by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga, although the portion in question did not receive media attention.
Goodlatte read Comey’s email as follows:
The penultimate paragraph of the May 2 draft reads as follows: Accordingly, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters such as this, I am completing the investigation by expressing to Justice my view that no charges are appropriate in this case.
Goodlatte noted that “this paragraph is virtually identical to what Director Comey eventually said more than 2 months later on July 25, 2016, in recommending no charges against Secretary Clinton. It seems to confirm that the FBI, including the Director, had made up its mind not to charge Secretary Clinton before interviewing her.”
McCabe disputed that characterization, retorting, “It may seem that way reading it now. But I know that Director Comey had not made up his mind at that time.”
There is no evidence that Comey tested language to use if charges were to be filed against Clinton. Indeed, McCabe admitted as much when he was asked whether Comey similarly prepared a statement recommending charges in the Clinton email case.
McCabe then repeatedly stated that he is not aware of any other precedent similar to Comey’s draft statement against recommending charges two months before Clinton was interviewed.
McCabe did so in the following exchanges with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows:
Meadows. So is this common practice, in normal investigations of every type, to do a memo 2 months ahead of time to lay out what you’re going to say with a conclusion? So let’s take it outside of this particular person. How many other times does that happen?
Mr. McCabe. No, sir, it’s not common.
Mr. Meadows. So this is a unique situation where he did it this one time?
Mr. McCabe. This is the only time I am aware of, sir.
Mr. Meadows. Is this case so unique that you would have a prepared document 2 months ahead of interviewing the witness? Is that normal protocol within the FBI?
Mr. McCabe. It is not normal protocol within the FBI to release a statement about a case —
Mr. Meadows. That’s not the question I asked, Mr. McCabe.
Mr. McCabe. — we believed we were going to —
Mr. Meadows. Is it normal protocol — is it normal protocol to draft a letter by the FBI 2 months before you interviewed the witness to draw a conclusion? Is that normal protocol?
Mr. McCabe. I have not seen that before, sir.
Mr. Meadows. So your answer is no, it’s not normal protocol?
Mr. McCabe. I’m not aware of that protocol. I’ve never seen that. I haven’t been through an experience like this in the pendency of my career. So, no, I’ve never seen that before.
Mr. Meadows. I yield back.
McCabe’s statements on the matter may take on renewed significance after the release of FBI emails last week showing, among other things, that Comey’s agency in 2016 sought to “expeditiously” accommodate a request for information from Clinton’s lawyer. Judicial Watch obtained and released the emails between controversial former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
“These incredible documents show the leadership of the FBI rushed to give Hillary Clinton her FBI interview report shortly before the election,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton charged. “And the documents also show the FBI failed to timely document interviews in the Clinton email ‘matter’ – further confirming the whole investigation was a joke.”