Emails: No. 2 FBI Official Recused Self From Clinton Probe One Week Before Election

McCabe was under fire at the time for donations his wife received from Virginia Gov. McAuliffe, a close Clinton friend

Andrew McCabe / Getty Images
November 3, 2017

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe recused himself from the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server just one week before the presidential election, according to new Justice Department records obtained by Judicial Watch, a government watchdog.

McCabe sent a brief email, dated Nov. 1, 2016, to fellow senior FBI officials, in which he formally recused himself from the Clinton email investigation, which the FBI code-named "Mid-year."

"As of today I am voluntarily recusing myself from the ongoing Mid Year investigation," he wrote in the email. "I will continue to respond to congressional requests for historical information as necessary."

Judicial Watch obtained the email and other related documents through Freedom of Information Act litigation.

During the campaign and in the months since, President Donald Trump, conservative groups, and several Republicans lawmakers criticized McCabe for failing to recuse himself from the FBI's probe into Clinton's private email server after media reports that the 2015 state Senate campaign of McCabe's wife received $675,000 from two groups either run by or closely associated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The $675,000 amounted to nearly 40 percent of the campaign's total funds.

McAuliffe is a close friend of the Clintons and had served on the board of the Clinton Global Initiative.

The groups that contributed to the campaign of McCabe's wife are McAuliffe's political action committee Common Good VA, which gave $452,500 in cash and $15,000 in in-kind donations, and the Virginia Democratic Party, which contributed $207,788 in in-kind donations.

The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General in January announced it would review whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton email investigation, which began in July 2015, and whether he may have violated the Hatch Act's prohibition against FBI agents campaigning in partisan races.

Judicial Watch also obtained an internal FBI document that provided an overview of issues related to calls for McCabe's recusal and suggested talking points "to inform discussions with employees or interested parties in the community."

The document, dated Oct. 24, cites a front-page Wall Street Journal article published the same day that detailed potential conflict-of-interests involving McCabe and his wife's campaign.

The document argued that the Journal's timeline of events related to McCabe and the FBI's investigation into Clinton's email server makes "invalid associations between the events."

It asserted that McCabe didn't have any oversight of the investigation into the email server during his wife's failed state senate campaign, which ended Nov. 3, 2015.

"It was not until he assumed the position of deputy director in February 2016 that he had oversight of the investigation, well after her political campaign had concluded," the document states.

The document also stated that McCabe became deputy FBI director in February 2016 and began overseeing the Clinton investigation at that time.

If asked if McCabe played any role in his wife's campaign, the document said the response should be: "No. Then-[Assistant Director] McCabe played no role, attended no events and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind."

In June 2017, Circa News reported that social media photos show "McCabe wearing a t-shirt supporting his wife's campaign during a public event and then posting a photo on social media urging voters to join him in voting for his wife."

After President Trump ousted FBI Director James Comey May 9, McCabe became acting director before returning to the position of deputy director once the Senate confirmed Christopher Wray’s nomination to lead the agency in early August.

Trump has repeatedly targeted McCabe for his alleged conflicts of interest in the Clinton email probe. In late July, as part of his criticisms of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump tweeted, "Problem is that acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from [Hillary Clinton] for wife!"

Trump did not point out that it was actually McAuliffe and the Virginia Democratic Party that provided the donations, not Hillary Clinton.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.