Andrew McCabe has claimed for the first time that he told the Gang of Eight—including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan—that the FBI opened up a counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump after the firing of James Comey. He claims none of them even tried to object.
The former acting director of the FBI appeared live on the Today show Tuesday morning and added to the volley of accusations he’s leveled at Trump over the past two weeks. He confirmed to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that U.S. intelligence thought it was “possible” that Trump was actively working on behalf of Russia during and after his election.
McCabe’s claim that he directly informed congressional leaders from both parties would mean that some of the most high-profile figures in the Republican Party were aware that the FBI had opened up a counterintelligence investigation against Trump far earlier than previously known.
McCabe was asked directly if he informed the Gang of Eight about the investigation and replied: “The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we’d been doing. Opening a case of this nature, not something that an FBI director, not something than an acting FBI director, can do by yourself, right?”
“This is a recommendation that came to me from my team, I reviewed it with our lawyers, I discussed it at length with the deputy attorney general, and I told Congress what we had done.”
Pressed on whether any of the senior Republicans or Democrats fought against the investigation, McCabe responded: “That’s the important thing here, Savannah—no one objected, not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts.”
McCabe elaborates on the meeting in his book. According to The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand, he wrote: “No one interrupted. No one pushed back. The mood in the room was sober. Schumer had been nodding his head and looking at me very directly throughout. On McConnell’s side of the table, I sensed a great deal of resignation.”
The existence of the investigation was first reported by The New York Times last month. Intelligence officials were so concerned by the president’s firing of Comey that they began probing whether he’d been working on behalf of the Kremlin against American interests.
On Today, McCabe was asked further about the intelligence community’s concern that Trump was a Russian asset. Guthrie asked him: “Was it your suspicion and the reason you opened this investigation that you thought the president might actually be working on behalf of Russia?”
“We had a number of very concerning things that we were considering at this time,” replied McCabe. “One of them was the fact that the president in our view had gone to extreme measures to potentially impact, negatively impact, possibly turn off our investigation of Russian meddling into the election and Russian coordination with his campaign.”
Pressed again on if he thought Trump worked for Russia, McCabe said: “We thought that might be possible, yes. We thought that might be possible. Now, remember, Savannah, we’re at the beginning of an investigation, we don’t draw conclusions, we just look at the facts and information we have and begin our investigations.”
An interview with McCabe was also published by The Atlantic Tuesday morning in which he goes further in explaining why the FBI felt it was necessary to open up the investigation into Trump.
Asked if one of his other claims—that Trump backed Vladimir Putin’s assertion that North Korea didn’t represent a missile threat to the United States over the opinion of U.S. intelligence—was the behavior of a man who had been compromised by Russia, McCabe said it was possible.
“I mean, it certainly could be,” he said. “I don’t know that for a fact. That was the reason we initiated the [counterintelligence] investigation. We were concerned, and we felt like we had credible, articulable facts to indicate that a threat to national security may exist. And, in fact, that a crime may have been committed: obstruction of justice.”
“My own view of it is that those two things, the obstruction and the national-security threat, are inextricable. They are two sides of the same coin. To not have opened a case under those circumstances, particularly because the person who’s the subject of that investigation is the president, would have been a complete abdication of our responsibilities.”
Finally, asked on Today if he thinks if his actions will be vindicated once Robert Mueller releases his report, McCabe replied: “I anxiously await the results of Director Mueller’s work and I hope that we all get to see that. I think all Americans have the right to see the results of that work.”