Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is “very upset and disappointed” by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe's lawyer said Friday.
“Andy has at all times attempted to, and believes he’s been successful in, playing it straight with Jim,” Michael Bromwich told reporters as he again attacked an internal investigation process that led to McCabe's firing from the FBI last month and a criminal referral to federal prosecutors.
The disagreement involves conflicting recollections about a conversation the two men had following an October 2016 Wall Street Journal story about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe says he told Comey that he had authorized FBI officials to share information with the reporter — specifically, details of a heated phone conversation with a senior Justice Department official — in order to push back against a story he felt was going to be unfair to the bureau and inaccurate.
Comey, however, has said McCabe did not acknowledge having done so and left the impression that he didn’t know who had shared the information with the journalist.
The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that McCabe misled officials under oath about authorizing the disclosure. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him last month, and the inspector general’s office in recent weeks referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington for a possible criminal investigation.
Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general himself, said Friday that the threshold for criminal referrals is very low and that they very rarely end up in prosecutions. He said the investigation that led to McCabe’s firing was “deeply flawed,” “unprecedented” in its speed and accelerated so that McCabe could be dismissed before he could retire with full benefits.
Separately Friday, Bromwich announced the creation of a legal defense fund and said he was working with the law firm of Boies Schiller & Flexner to consider possible lawsuits on grounds such as wrongful termination and defamation. President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked McCabe and Comey by name, and those insults have been amplified by the inspector general's findings.
The disagreement and contrasting memories have burst into public view this week, as Comey has insisted in television interviews that he stands by his account and that the FBI and Justice Department cannot tolerate lack of candor. He has said he feels conflicted about McCabe’s legal problems given that the two men worked closely together.
“I like him very much as a person, but sometimes even good people do things they shouldn't do,” Comey said in an interview with CNN on Thursday.
Bromwich also suggested that the disagreement was not personal, though he did note that McCabe feels “very upset and disappointed” by some of Comey’s comments.
“Andy McCabe and Jim Comey had an excellent relationship. They worked closely with one another. They relied on each other,” Bromwich said. “Andy McCabe looked up to Jim Comey. So we are not for a moment suggesting that Jim Comey is making things up or lying.”
But, he added, “Nobody's memory is perfect. People are fallible. And we think on this one that Andy McCabe has a strong and clear recollection and Jim Comey does not.”