KEY POINTS
  • Andrew McCabe will not be charged by the Department of Justice, which dropped its probe into the former FBI Deputy Director.
  • McCabe was a frequent target of President Donald Trump's attacks.News of the DOJ's decision came a day after Attorney General William Barr said Trump's tweets about the criminal case of his longtime friend, Roger Stone, "make it impossible for me to do my job."
Andrew McCabe

The Department of Justice said Friday that it has dropped its criminal investigation against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and will not press charges against him.

McCabe was being investigated by the DOJ regarding allegedly improper leaks he made to journalists related to an investigation into Hillary Clinton, and his claims to investigators about those leaks.

The DOJ's internal watchdog concluded that McCabe "lacked candor, including under oath" when answering questions about the leaks.

But in a letter to McCabe's attorneys, the Justice Department said that "after careful consideration, the government has decided not to pursue criminal charges against your client."

"Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed," the letter said.

McCabe was a frequent target of President Donald Trump, who blamed the former official for what he has called a baseless investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

"We learned this morning through a phone call from the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office that was followed by a letter that the Justice Department's criminal investigation of Andrew McCabe has been closed," attorneys Michael Bromwich and David Schertler said in a statement Friday.

"This means that no charges will be brought against him based on the facts underlying the Office of the Inspector General's April 2018 report."

"At long last, justice has been done in this matter. We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought," the attorneys said.

"We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them."

The Justice Department's decision is likely to anger Trump. He has repeatedly fumed about the fact that several of his former aides and advisers have been convicted and sentenced to prison for a wide range of crimes during his presidency, while senior DOJ officials, such as former FBI director James Comey and now McCabe, have not been prosecuted.

Trump targeted McCabe throughout the two year Mueller probe, frequently attacking both the FBI agent and his wife, Jill McCabe, on Twitter.

Jill McCabe mounted a failed bid for Virginia Senate in 2015, and her campaign had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a PAC overseen by Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Trump seized on the donations as proof that McCabe was protecting his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, and using the F.B.I. to wage a covert "Deep State" war on Trump and his allies.

In a CNN interview Friday, McCabe said having the investigation dropped is "a relief that I'm not sure I can really explain to you adequately."

"The pursuit of political enemies and the use of the criminal justice system ... to exact some sort of revenge on those political enemies is not something that should be happening in the United States of America," McCabe added.

A tumultuous week at DOJ

News of the DOJ's decision to drop its probe of McCabe came a day after Attorney General William Barr complained about Trump's tweets regarding the criminal case of Trump's longtime friend, Roger Stone.

After federal prosecutors recommended Monday that a judge sentence Stone to up to nine years in prison — a harsh sentence that was nevertheless in line with federal sentencing guidelines — Trump vented rage on Twitter.

"This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them," Trump tweeted. "Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"

The department overrode its own prosecutors' recommendation Tuesday, submitting an amended sentencing memo to the judge asking for "far less" than nine years behind bars for Stone. Four prosecutors quit working on Stone's case that same day — and one of them left the Justice Department entirely.

But Trump praised Barr for the move: "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!"

Barr and his department came under intense attacks for their involvement in Stone's case. Critics accuse the attorney general of doing Trump's bidding to protect his friend Stone; some Democrats have called for Barr to resign.

The attorney general delivered a stunning rebuke of his boss Thursday, saying in an ABC News interview that Trump's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job." He also maintained that Trump did not influence his decision in Stone's sentencing recommendation.

But on Friday, the New York Times reported that Barr has quietly tapped a group of outside lawyers to conduct an internal review of the DOJ's handing of politically sensitive cases, including Flynn's prosecution. The move reportedly amounts to a second layer of oversight and influence over the decisions of career prosecutors in the Washington office.

Taken together, Barr's interference in the Stone case and the new monitoring of prosecutors both undermine his claims of independence from the president. They are also likely to exacerbate the problems of low morale and internal turmoil currently plaguing DOJ.

The growing rift with Trump

But the trade off for Barr could well be that his actions will serve to placate the president, whose anger at DOJ has been bubbling up for several months, both in private and in public.

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the president was furious when he learned of the DOJ's decision not to pursue charges against Comey over the former director's handling of memos he wrote about his meetings with Trump in 2017.

Trump was further angered by news in January that a two-year probe into vague allegations of corruption by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State had failed to produce anything tangible. That probe led by U.S. Attorney John Huber of Utah, had been launched under Barr's predecessor, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

The closing of the Huber probe last month dovetailed with developments in another case involving a Trump associate: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In late 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and agreed to cooperate with several federal investigations, including the Mueller probe.

But in December of last year, Flynn abruptly reversed course and petitioned to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming in part that he was the victim of an overzealous DOJ prosecution. In response, prosecutors updated their recommendations to include a prison sentence of up to six months for Flynn.

According to the Post, the failure of the Huber probe to turn up anything relevant, coupled with the new sentencing recommendations for Flynn enraged the president. And despite Trump's public focus this week on securing a more lenient sentence for Stone, what the president really wants is harsher punishment of his perceived enemies.