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In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump revived an allegation he’d previously used against FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who is leading the agency until the president’s pick for a new director, Christopher Wray, receives Senate confirmation.
The tweet said: "Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!"
Trump’s anger seems to be that his campaign is being investigated for its communications with Russia while Clinton, his former opponent, is no longer in the political spotlight.
But his tweet about Andrew McCabe is a significant distortion of the facts. And the implication that McCabe got Clinton off as a political favor doesn’t make much sense when we look at the evidence.
In 2015, Dr. Jill McCabe, a pediatrician, was recruited by Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, to run for one of the 40 seats in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate. McAuliffe co-chaired Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection 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 state Senate.
At the time, Andrew McCabe was assistant director of the FBI's field office in Washington. He had focused much of his career on the fight against 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.
Both McAuliffe, through his political action committee, and the state Democratic Party, donated to Dr. McCabe's campaign.
In October 2015, 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 around the same time 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 other state 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.
Now let’s break down the elements of Trump’s tweet
This is overstated. The FBI has confirmed that McCabe had an "oversight role," but it’s a stretch to say he was "in charge" of it. Then-FBI Director James Comey, not McCabe, made the decision that the Justice Department would not file charges against Clinton. Comey has repeatedly explained his decision under oath.
This is wrong. McCabe never "got" the money for his wife. The FBI ethics agreement required McCabe not to participate in fundraising for his wife’s campaign, or support of any kind. She worked independently to secure the funding for her candidacy.
It wasn’t quite that much, but it was close. The money from McAuliffe’s PAC and the state party totaled $675,288.
This is significantly misleading. While McAuliffe is a longstanding political ally of the Clintons, there has been no evidence that Clinton or her campaign were involved in the contributions or knew they were being made. McAuliffe’s interest in Dr. McCabe’s race is fully explainable by his personal desire to elect more Democratic lawmakers at the state level so that he could enact his legislative agenda -- not because of McCabe’s eventual role in an investigation that he hadn’t yet become involved in.
Trump tweeted, "The person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from (Hillary Clinton) for wife!"
This tweet distorts key elements of the story, severely undercutting its accuracy.
A Virginia state candidate married to an FBI official did get donations from a longtime Clinton supporter, McAuliffe, who was also the Democratic governor of Virginia. But the tweet ignores at the spouse played no role in fundraising for his wife’s campaign, and it ignores that that McAuliffe made the donations on his own, for state-level political goals -- not to influence an investigation that Andrew McCabe wasn’t even involved in yet.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
Donald Trump, tweet, July 25, 2017
PolitiFact, "Facts dispute Donald Trump's claim that donation to FBI spouse linked to Clinton email decision," 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
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
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
Loudoun Times-Mirror, "New Democrat emerges to challenge Sen. Dick Black," March 13, 2015
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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