Donald Trump's personal lawyer calls for end to Russia investigation after firing of Andrew McCabe

Democrats in Congress react angrily to suggestion and say the president faces 'severe consequences' if he attempts to curtail investigation

Chris Stevenson
New York
Saturday 17 March 2018 22:30
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Donald Trump branded a 'disgraced demagogue' by former CIA director John Brennan over sacking of Andrew McCabe

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jon Dowd has called for an end to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation after the firing of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Mr McCabe, a 21-year veteran of the FBI, has found himself in the middle of Mr Trump’s narrative that ‘deep state’ holdovers from the Obama administration are seeking to undermine his presidency. That particularly applies to the bureau’s investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when Secretary of State.

Mr Trump called Mr McCabe’s firing - which came late on Friday night slightly more than 24 hours before Mr McCabe was due to retire and collect a government pension - “a great day for democracy”. He followed that up later on Saturday with a number of tweets claiming, that it proved “tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice [Department] and State [Department]”.

Mr McCabe had stepped down in January, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said in a report – the contents of which has not yet been made public – that he leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions. Mr McCabe denies doing so and says his firing is part of the Trump administration's "war" on the FBI.

The president's lawyer Mr Dowd said in an initial statement provided to the Daily Beast that he “pray[ed]” that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, “will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss [former FBI Director] James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier”. He told the news website that he was speaking on behalf of President Trump.

In a later statement, Mr Dowd said that he was merely speaking for himself and that in regards to the Mueller investigation it should be ended “in light of recent revelations.” Mr Trump and the White House have denied there has been any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Democrats in Congress reacted with anger to the request, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer saying that if Mr Trump sought to curtail the investigation, there would be "severe consequences."

“Mr Dowd's comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the President and his legal team is not to cooperate with special counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

“The President, the administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with, or end the special counsel's investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans.”

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also called for defending the Russia probe. “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defence of the Special Counsel. Now,” he said.

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John Brennan, who led the CIA under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2017, made his feelings clear about the reasons for Mr McCabe’s firing by tweeting about Mr Trump: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”

The investigation into election meddling was originally led by former FBI Director James Comey before he himself was fired by Mr Trump in May last year.

Mr Comey later testified to a congressional panel that he had had conversations with Mr Trump where the president had asked him to think about dropping an investigation into the conduct of Mr Trump’s then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House have denied such conversations taking place, although it is believed that Mr Mueller and his team are looking into whether Mr Comey’s firing could amount to obstruction of justice. Mr Flynn has since pleaded guilty to one count lying to the FBI, having been indicted by Mr Mueller.

In a statement, Mr McCabe alleged that the report used as the basis for his firing was sped up “only after” his testimony suggested that he would corroborate Mr Comey’s accounts of his conversations with Mr Trump. A source told the Associated Press that Mr McCabe had kept personal memos regarding interactions with the president. They are said to be similar to the ones maintained by Mr Comey, and it is believed they have been passed to Mr Mueller’s team.

Mr McCabe briefly served as director of the FBI between the firing of Mr Comey and the swearing-in of current director Christopher Wray. He played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigation into of Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while she was Secretary of State, as well the Clinton Foundation.

Mr McCabe came under scrutiny over an October 2016 news report about clashes between the FBI and the Department of Justice about about how aggressively the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. The watchdog office concluded that Mr McCabe authorised FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for that story and had kept back information about it.

In his statement, Mr McCabe said he had the authority to share information with journalists through the public affairs office and that he had honestly answered questions about whom he had spoken to and when, and that when he thought his answers were misunderstood, he contacted investigators to correct them.

At the time, Mr McCabe was faced questions of partisanship, and both then and since he has been repeatedly been criticised by Mr Trump for being biased in favour of Hillary Clinton and because his wife Jill ran as a Democratic candidate for the Virginia State Senate. Ms McCabe had received campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton friend, during her unsuccessful run. The FBI has said Mr McCabe received the necessary ethics approval about his wife’s candidacy and was not supervising the Clinton investigation at the time.

Mr Trump referenced the race in one of his tweets on Saturday afternoon: “The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M… How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!”.

Mr McCabe suggested in his statement that he was trying to “set the record straight” about the FBI’s independence against the background of those allegations.

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