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C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. October 26, 2016

Facts dispute Donald Trump's claim that donation to FBI spouse linked to Clinton email decision

Donald Trump has again questioned the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state, this time by citing a connection between a Virginia state Senate race and a man who would become the FBI's deputy director.

Trump spoke about the latest Clinton controversy during Florida campaign stops in Sanford on Oct. 25 and the night before in Tampa.

"One of the closest people to Hillary Clinton, with longstanding ties to her and husband -- the closest person, I can tell you that … gave more than $675,000 to the campaign of the wife of a top FBI official who oversaw the investigation into Mrs. Clinton's illegal email server," Trump said at the Sanford rally. "In other words, the man who was in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton accepted essentially from Hillary Clinton $675,000 that went to his wife."

"Never happened before. Never happened. Not in this country's history," Trump continued. "This is a disgrace. And she shouldn't be allowed to run for president. She shouldn't be allowed. She's a crook."

Trump’s claim, which suggests a quid pro quo, suffers one from fatal flaw: The timeframe doesn’t add up.

At the time of the contribution, the candidate's husband was not directly involved in the FBI probe of Clinton's email server, according to the FBI. The bureau says that by the time he had some oversight role in the Clinton investigation, the election involving his wife had been over for three months.

Here are the details.

In 2015, Dr. Jill McCabe, a pediatrician, was recruited to run for one of the 40 seats in the Virginia's Republican-controlled Senate by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who co-chaired Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign and chaired Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful 2008 run for president.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, McAuliffe and other Virginia Democrats met with McCabe and her husband, Andrew, on March 7, 2015, to urge her to run as part of an effort to take back the Senate.

At the time, Andrew McCabe was assistant director of the FBI's field office in Washington and had focused much of his career on terrorism.

The FBI released a statement that Andrew McCabe "consulted with top FBI headquarters and field office ethics officers for guidance, including briefings on the Hatch Act, to prevent against any actual or potential conflict-of-interest, in the event she decided to go forward."

Based on that advice, the FBI said, when Dr. McCabe chose to run, Andrew "McCabe and FBI lawyers implemented a system of recusal from all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics, a process followed for the remainder of her campaign. During the campaign, he played no role, attended no events, and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind."

News that Clinton was using a private email account in violation of federal record-keeping requirements, broke March 2, 2015.

McCabe announced her candidacy 10 days later on March 12, 2015.

That July, the FBI was called in to begin a criminal investigation into the use of Clinton's private server at her home in New York. And that same month, Andrew McCabe was promoted to associate deputy director, the third in command at the FBI. He moved to FBI headquarters in September.

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Not surprisingly, both McAuliffe, through his political action committee, and the state Democratic Party, donated to Dr. McCabe's campaign.

On Oct. 1, 27 and 29, McAuliffe's PAC, Common Good VA, gave Dr. McCabe's campaign a total of $450,000. (An additional $17,500 had been given earlier). The Democratic Party of Virginia spent $207,788 on Sept. 30 and Oct. 22 for mailings on her behalf. That would amount to 40 percent of the $1.7 million spent by the campaign.

Two other Democrats running for Senate seats, Jeremy Pike and Dan Gecker, got larger amounts from McAuliffe's PAC.

In November, Dr. McCabe lost her race to incumbent Republican Dick Black.

On Feb. 1, 2016, three months after his wife's defeat, Andrew McCabe became the FBI's deputy director.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI said it was the first time McCabe had any oversight role over the Clinton case.

"Months after the completion of (his wife's) campaign, then-Associate Deputy Director McCabe was promoted to Deputy, where, in that position, he assumed for the first time, an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails," according to the FBI statement.

But perhaps the biggest flaw in Trump's argument comes with his assertion that McCabe was in charge of the decision on whether to recommend prosecution.

It was FBI Director James Comey, not McCabe, who made the decision to recommend that the Justice Department not file charges against Clinton. Comey has repeatedly explained his decision under oath.

Finally, there has been no evidence put forth so far — and several people in Trump's campaign did not respond to our inquiry — that Clinton or her campaign were involved in the contributions or knew they were being made. Trump has simply claimed, the money came "essentially from Hillary Clinton," and that "Hillary knew this money was being paid."

Our ruling

Trump said, "The man who was in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton accepted essentially from Hillary Clinton $675,000 that went to his wife."

Trump is correct that hefty donations were given from a Clinton ally to a candidate whose husband was an FBI official.

But the timeline doesn’t add up, nor do Trump’s allegations stand up to independent scrutiny.

At the time of the contribution, the candidate's husband was not directly involved in the FBI probe of Clinton's email server, according to the FBI. The bureau says that by the time he had some oversight role in the Clinton investigation, the election involving his wife had been over for three months.

Meanwhile, the decision not charge Clinton was a recommendation made by the director of the FBI.

Trump's statement contains a small element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a completely different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

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Mostly False
"The man who was in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton accepted essentially from Hillary Clinton $675,000 that went to his wife."
In a speech
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Our Sources

Congressional Quarterly, (subscription required), "Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump Delivers Remarks at Campaign Event in Tampa, Florida," Oct. 24, 2016; "Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump Delivers Remarks at Campaign Event in Sanford, Florida," Oct. 25, 2016; "House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Holds Hearing on FBI Recommendations on Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Email Server, Panel 1," July 7, 2016; and "House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on FBI Oversight," Sept. 28, 2016

The Wall Street Journal, "Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official's Wife," Oct. 24, 2016

Statement from the FBI, received Oct. 26, 2016

New York Times, "Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules," March 2, 2015

The Loudoun Times-Mirror, "New Democrat emerges to challenge Sen. Dick Black," March 13, 2015

Federal Bureau of Investigation, "FBI Announces Executive Appointments," July 30, 2015 and "Andrew McCabe Named Deputy Director of the FBI," Jan. 29, 2016

Virginia Public Access Project, "Jill McCabe," "Donations from Common Good VA," and "Donations from Democratic Party of Virginia," both accessed Oct. 26, 2016

PolitiFact, "FBI findings tear holes in Hillary Clinton's email defense," July 6, 2016 and "FBI director James Comey says Donald Trump has it flipped; Petraeus case was worse than Clinton's," Oct. 18, 2016

The Washington Post, "Why the latest Hillary Clinton conspiracy might not be what it seems," Oct. 24, 2016 and "Trump's mixed-up version of the latest Hillary Clinton email controversy," Oct. 25, 2016

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Facts dispute Donald Trump's claim that donation to FBI spouse linked to Clinton email decision

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