Sources familiar with the upcoming Justice Department inspector general (IG) report on how the FBI handled the investigation into former secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails suggested that former deputy director Andrew McCabe — who was forced to step down Monday — may have delayed the investigation into classified information in emails longtime Clinton adviser Huma Abedin stored on her husband Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
Ironically, the FBI’s announcement that it was reopening the Clinton investigation a few days before the election — which many Clinton supporters say cost her the election — may have come nearly three weeks later than it should have. McCabe may have intended to hold off until after the election, but ended up being unable to do so.
According to sources, the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has been focused on why McCabe, as the second-top official at the FBI, appeared to stall for about three weeks after he was asked to examine a batch of Clinton-related emails found on Weiner’s laptop. Anonymous sources close to the matter told The Washington Post that McCabe might have intended to stall on this part of the Clinton investigation until after the election.
This news proves particularly damning, as McCabe’s wife — who was running for a seat in the Virginia state house — had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from one of Clinton’s close allies, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Worse, McCabe seems to have changed his mind and acted on the Clinton emails — shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported on these contributions.
Last December, the State Department released hundreds of the emails from Weiner’s laptop, and at least four were marked “classified.”
The saga began in September 2016, when FBI agents in New York investigated Weiner for an alleged sexting incident with a 15-year-old girl. In that probe, agents discovered that his laptop contained thousands of work emails relating to Weiner’s then-wife, Huma Abedin. The New York FBI office alerted national headquarters within days.
Officials told the Post that McCabe was aware of the matter by late September or early October at the latest. The agents on the Weiner case wanted to talk with the agents on the Clinton email investigation to judge the importance of the emails on Weiner’s laptop.
Sources agreed that McCabe was involved in these discussions, but accounts differed as to whether or not then-FBI Director James Comey understood the situation in early October. Some sources suggested Comey did not learn about the emails on the Weiner laptop until weeks later.
For a period of at least three weeks, nothing much happened, and sources told the Post that Horowitz has zeroed in on this time lag.
Sources differed on why McCabe delayed processing the emails. His defenders said FBI agents were merely pursuing a careful process of sorting through potentially relevant emails, and that took time. Others insisted that McCabe seemed to sideline the emails, apparently without explanation.
Then, on October 24, The Wall Street Journal reported McAuliffe’s donations to McCabe’s wife’s campaign. The Post reported what happened next:
The dormant laptop issue then appeared to gain new attention inside the FBI and Justice Department. At a meeting of senior officials of both agencies, senior Justice Department official George Toscas asked about the status of the inquiry into the emails on Weiner’s laptop, according to people familiar with the matter.”
At the same time, the FBI was facing a new set of questions, this time about McCabe’s role in a stalled probe into the Clinton Foundation. Some within the FBI felt McCabe had repeatedly moved to hamstring that probe and were suspicious of his motives for doing so, according to people familiar with the matter.
People within the FBI weren’t just asking about Weiner’s laptop — they were also asking about McCabe’s role in the Clinton email scandal. If McCabe was indeed stalling on the emails, it seemed he could do so no longer.
Comey decided to notify Congress he was reopening the Clinton email investigation on October 28, about a week before the election. The following week, Comey sent a second letter saying the emails in question did not change the FBI’s conclusions about the Clinton case. At that time, officials said Comey did not notify Congress in early October because the bureau wanted additional information before proceeding.
Democrats who think the late Comey revelations may have cost Clinton the election should perhaps blame McCabe for delaying instead. Alternately, Republicans will likely be incensed at the idea that McCabe intended to delay the renewed Clinton probe until after the election.
It appears that this Washington Post report has confirmed what current FBI Director Chris Wray reportedly told staff on Monday: McCabe’s ouster had to do with the IG report, which will be released in March or April.
Did IG Horowitz conclude that McCabe did indeed delay the Clinton email investigation in October of 2016? Or does his ouster have more to do with the alleged altering of 302 forms FBI agents take when interviewing a suspect?
Either way, the forthcoming report does not look good for the FBI.