A top FBI official dropped the F-bomb when he explained to special counsel Robert Mueller how the bureau came to open its counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a forthcoming book.
The early briefing between Andrew McCabe, who became acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in May 2017, and Mueller at the J. Edgar Hoover Building was first disclosed in CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin’s True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump, an excerpt of which was published last week by the New Yorker.
McCabe told Mueller, a former FBI director himself, that the meeting would describe the FBI’s inquiry, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, but noted there was too much to say in one go.
“We will not get through the whole story in this one meeting,” McCabe said, according to sources who attended the briefing. “It’s too long and complicated. We will tell you how we got here.”
McCabe told Mueller, who was said to have known very little at this point about the investigation, about the summer theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and their subsequent publication by WikiLeaks. He also explained how one Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, told Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, who was the Democratic presidential nominee in the 2016 contest. This exchange was conveyed to the United States by Australia around that time.
“We’ve known for years that the Russians were probing our political systems,” McCabe said. “But July is when we say, F—, this is actually happening.”
It was after the hack and the disclosures from Australia that the FBI began looking at ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. McCabe noted that the bureau was unsure whether Trump knew about their connections. “Were these people just rogue morons?” he said.
Mueller had another meeting, one at the Justice Department which Toobin says also has not been previously reported, with former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official behind his appointment as special counsel. Here, Rosenstein advised Mueller not to emulate Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation, which expanded way beyond its original scope.
“But his investigation was a fishing expedition. Don’t do that. This is a criminal investigation. Do your job, and then shut it down,” Rosenstein said, according to the book, which is due to be released in August.
Mueller wrapped up his two-year investigation last spring, releasing a report that said the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion. His team was unable to find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but the report did lay out 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice.
McCabe, who now has a job at CNN alongside Toobin, was fired from the FBI in early 2018 and is now suing the Justice Department for wrongful termination, seeking to regain his job and back pay and claiming that Trump was behind a scheme to force him out right before he was set to retire.
The Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges against McCabe earlier this year after Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in 2018 detailing multiple instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” with Comey, FBI investigators, and inspector general investigators about his authorization to leak sensitive information to the Wall Street Journal that revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.