Lyin’ Comey or barely lyin’? Depends on who you ask.
The trustworthiness of former FBI Director James Comey is at the center of not one, but two political storms this week. The Republican Party and the president himself are calling Comey an “untruthful slime ball” and dubbing him “Lyin’ Comey” for his upcoming book criticizing the president.
Comey’s word is also now at the center of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report investigating Comey’s former deputy Andrew McCabe, which became public Friday afternoon. Donald Trump responded to the report on Twitter by saying that Comey and McCabe were essentially the same, but that missed the underlying tension in the report, which concluded McCabe was a liar and Comey was a truth-teller.
McCabe’s lawyer responded to the president on Twitter, saying they are considering a defamation lawsuit.
The OIG report accuses McCabe of repeatedly misleading investigators about his role in disclosing information about the bureau’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation to the Wall Street Journal during the 2016 election.
A 22-year veteran of the FBI, McCabe was fired from the FBI in March, days before he was set to receive his full pension. Attorney General Sessions cited the forthcoming OIG report as the reason for his termination, but Trump himself had also been publicly and privately lobbying for his dismissal for months.
And of all people, Comey defended McCabe when Sessions fired him.
But despite the public demonstrations of support McCabe and Comey have made for one another, the OIG report is full of conflicting accounts from the two men. Investigators ultimately believe the former FBI director over his deputy.
“We found that, in a conversation with then-Director Comey shortly after the WSJ article was published, McCabe lacked candor when he told Comey, or made statements that led Comey to believe, that McCabe had not authorized the disclosure and did not know who did,” the OIG report stated.
The Wall Street Journal article, “FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe,” reported on internal debate within the bureau over an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, essentially confirming the existence of the investigation. But Comey had repeatedly refused to publicly discuss whether the bureau was investigating the Clinton Foundation because the bureau’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny an ongoing investigation.
At the center of the disagreement between the two men is that McCabe claims he told Comey that he had authorized the disclosure of some information to the Wall Street Journal in order to protect the bureau’s reputation, whereas Comey claims that McCabe told him nothing and that he would have objected if he had.
“I have a strong impression [McCabe] conveyed to me, ‘It wasn’t me boss,’” Comey told investigators.
McCabe’s counsel responded that Comey’s integrity was questionable and that McCabe was more trustworthy. “The OIG should credit Mr. McCabe’s account over Director Comey’s,” the counsel submitted in a letter, arguing that the report “paints Director Comey as a white knight carefully guarding FBI information, while overlooking that Mr. McCabe’s account is more credible.”
At least on that count, it would appear the McCabe and Trump agree.
Follow Alex on Twitter @AlxThomp
Cover image: Andrew McCabe, left, and James Comey. (Photos by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images; Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)