ABC News Just Reported That Andrew McCabe Had Authorized a Criminal Probe of Jeff Sessions

Sessions fired McCabe last week.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a press conference regarding new opioid drug policy last month in Washington. Shen Ting/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe last week, supposedly for displaying a lack of candor in dealing with an internal Justice Department probe. But On Wednesday, ABC News reported that a year before McCabe’s firing, he had authorized the launch of a criminal inquiry into whether Sessions himself lacked candor when he testified before Congress during his confirmation hearing.

The investigation reportedly stemmed from Sessions’ testimony that he had not met with Russian officials. The Washington Post revealed last March that he had indeed met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after the Post report came out, a decision that ultimately helped lead to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. 

According to ABC‘s report:

According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate “all contacts” Sessions may have had with Russians, and “whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred.”

It’s unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions’ interview with Mueller’s investigators. It’s also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress—or others—since his confirmation.

It’s not clear whether Sessions was aware of the reported FBI inquiry into his testimony when he fired McCabe last week, hours before McCabe would have retired from the FBI with full benefits. An attorney for Sessions, Chuck Cooper, told ABC that the investigation into the attorney general is over. “The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” he said. Sessions has repeatedly denied misleading senators during his confirmation hearing.

Even before ABC’s report, there were serious questions about whether Sessions should have avoided involvement in the decision to fire McCabe. The former FBI official played significant roles in both the Russia probe and investigations into Hillary Clinton—matters that Sessions had promised to recuse himself from. Moreover, President Donald Trump had spent months publicly pressuring Sessions to remove McCabe.

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.