Federal prosecutors have declined to charge former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, closing an investigation into whether he lied to federal officials about his involvement in a news media disclosure, McCabe's legal team said Friday.
The decision resolves a criminal investigation that spanned more than a year and began with a referral from the Justice Department's inspector general, which said McCabe repeatedly lied about having authorized a subordinate to share information with a newspaper reporter for a 2016 article about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe's lawyers said in a statement they were told in a phone call and letter that the case is closed and "no charges will be brought against him based on the facts."
McCabe, a frequent target of attacks from President Donald Trump, has denied that he intentionally misled anyone. He has said his 2018 firing — for what the Justice Department called "lack of candor" — was politically motivated. He sued the Justice Department in August, saying officials had used the inspector general's conclusions as a pretext to rid the FBI of leaders Trump perceived as biased against him.
In a letter on Friday, prosecutors told McCabe's lawyers that they decided "not to pursue criminal charges against your client" after careful consideration.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed," said the letter, signed by the chief of the U.S. attorney's office's public corruption unit.
The decision was revealed at the week of startling tensions between Trump and the Justice Department over the treatment of one of the Republican president's longtime allies and confidants, Roger Stone. It is likely to further agitate Trump, who has repeatedly and loudly complained that the Justice Department has pursued his former aides and advisers but not prosecuted his perceived political foes. Attorney General William Barr pushed back at Trump in a television interview on Thursday, saying the president's tweets about ongoing criminal cases are making his job impossible."
The decision to spare McCabe criminal charges eliminates the prospect of a sensational trial that would have refocused public attention on the chaotic months of 2016, when the FBI was entangled in presidential politics through investigations touching both main contenders — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Trump, her Republican opponent.
The investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Washington arose from an October 2016 story in The Wall Street Journal that described internal debates roiling the FBI and the Justice Department weeks before the presidential election about how aggressively the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. The article recounted a particularly tense phone call between McCabe and a senior Justice Department official about the investigation.
The inspector general's report said McCabe repeatedly told internal investigators that he had not authorized anyone at the FBI to speak with the reporter and that he did not know who he did. The report said McCabe ultimately corrected that account and confirmed that he had encouraged the conversation with the reporter to counter a narrative that he thought was false.
McCabe has denied any wrongdoing and has said he was distracted by the tumult surrounding the FBI and the White House — one of the interviews took place the same day that former FBI Director James Comey was fired — during the times he was questioned.
"During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me," McCabe has said in a statement. "And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them."
McCabe has been a target of Trump's attacks since even before he was elected, after news emerged in the fall of 2016 that McCabe's wife had accepted campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during an unsuccessful run for the state Senate there.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' robust start in the race for the presidential nomination is triggering alarm among congressional Democrats, with many warning that a ticket headed by the self-declared socialist could be devastating to the party's chances of winning the Senate and holding the House in November.
In anxious huddles around the Capitol, apprehensive Democrats are sharing their worries that Sanders' socialist label and unyielding embrace of controversial proposals like "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal will repel voters in the affluent, moderate districts that flipped House control in 2018 and in closely divided states where Republican senators are vulnerable.
The Vermont independent narrowly won New Hampshire Tuesday on the heels of a strong showing in Iowa and is widely seen as a front-runner, along with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
"I'm a proud capitalist," said freshman Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, in pointed contrast with Sanders. McAdams, who is supporting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and whose Salt Lake City district will be among the toughest for Democrats to defend, said having a liberal like Sanders atop his party's ticket "would probably give me more opportunities to show my independence" from the party.
Another freshman from a competitive district, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., said Democrats need a presidential nominee who "doesn't scare all those future former Republicans more than Trump scares them." And while acknowledging that Republicans plan to tar all Democrats with the socialist label, "There's one candidate for whom that would not be a lie."
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who backs the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, warned a group of Democratic voters this week in Carson City, Nevada, that with Sanders atop the ticket, "you're not going to take back the Senate. There's not any way, because everybody's going to be tarred with the same brush. We will probably lose seats in the House."
In private conversations, other Democrats are more succinct. One House Democrat said colleagues from swing districts are scared by the prospects of a Sanders nomination, while another said moderates are increasingly concerned that a Sanders candidacy would devastate their prospects for winning the White House and retaining the House. The lawmakers insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.
Democrats' jitters have Republicans rubbing their hands in delight.
"It's every Republican's dream come true," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a former leader of the House GOP's campaign committee, said of a possible Sanders nomination.
Republicans face an uphill fight in capturing control of the House, which Democrats lead 232-197, with one independent and five vacancies. The GOP controls the Senate 53-47 and is favored to retain its majority.
Biden supporters are happy to use apprehension about Sanders' impact on the party's strength in Congress as a tool for drumming up support.
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., who's endorsed Biden, said if Sanders were nominated, Democrats from moderate districts "might actually have to run away from our nominee to get elected." And he added, "It's highly unlikely that Bernie Sanders will moderate his views, either."
Congressional Democrats have little to gain by openly disparaging the man who could well be their presidential nominee, and they say they're uncertain what they could do that would be effective. Any move to derail his candidacy that could be traced back to them would undoubtedly enrage Sanders and his impassioned supporters and risk the fury that split the party in 2016, when some Sanders backers never supported Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
Underscoring a reluctance to speak critically of Sanders, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., chairwoman of House Democrats' campaign arm, sidestepped questions about how his nomination would affect her candidates' prospects. "We have a long way to go before we know who our nominee is," she said.
Asked how many nervous lawmakers have expressed their worries about Sanders to her, Bustos paused for four seconds before answering, "We have discussions about the nominee but, you know, it runs the gamut."
While many Democrats are reluctant to openly express dismay about Sanders, members of the House have spoken with their feet.
According to the website fivethirtyeight.com, Sanders has endorsements from only seven House members, all members of the progressive caucus from safely Democratic districts. Biden, in contrast, has backing from 41 House members, and has made a point of touting support from seven lawmakers from swing districts. Bloomberg, who hopes to poach Biden's position as the moderate alternative to Sanders, has racked up 11 endorsements from House lawmakers, five of whom occupy swing seats.
Progressives argue the fears are overblown. Republicans tried to tie Democrats to socialism and liberal causes like Medicare for All during the 2018 campaign, they note, yet Democrats won a resounding majority in the House. And they argue that nominating Sanders could change the electorate in ways that help the party.
"They don't want somebody that sells out," said Sanders backer Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a member of the "squad" of young liberal freshmen. She added, "Please don't talk about only persuading Trumpers and independents" to be open to an alternative candidate. "How about persuading the Democrats that haven't been engaged."
"The single most important thing for Democrats to take back the Senate is turnout," said Mike Lux, a liberal strategist who supports Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the presidential race. "We have to have a highly energized Democratic base turnout, a lot of young people coming out, voting not just in the presidential race but further down the ballot."
Yet Sanders' agenda is far from shared. Several top-tier Democratic Senate recruits, such as former astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham in North Carolina and former Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado, have explicitly distanced themselves from core Sanders positions like Medicare for All.
Hickenlooper, the likely Democratic nominee against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, targeted Sanders during his own brief bid for the party's presidential nomination last year. At a Democratic debate last summer, Hickenlooper warned that Sanders' program would be "a disaster" at the ballot box.
"If you force Americans to make these radical changes," Hickenlooper said, "they're not going to go along."
Gardner, widely considered the most endangered Republican senator, has been openly pining for Sanders to be the nominee. "In 2018, Cory said 'the most dangerous thing to happen in America in the 2016 presidential election was Bernie Sanders' normalization of socialism,'" Gardner campaign spokesman Jerrod Dobkin said. "Two years later, Cory's been proven right."
Democrats skeptical of Sanders stressed that the nominating process has just begun.
Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who is considered the most endangered Democratic Senate incumbent this year, has endorsed Biden, a longtime friend. He said he wouldn't play "what-if games" about the top of the ticket and how it might affect his chances in deep-red Alabama.
"I still think that Biden is going to be the nominee," Jones said. "I still think that moderate voice that's out there is going to ultimately carry."
President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that the Pentagon should review the conduct of a former White House national security aide who played a central role in the Democrats' impeachment case and potentially consider disciplinary action against him.
Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, who until last week was detailed by the Pentagon to the White House, testified before the House impeachment panel that Trump inappropriately pushed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Vindman was ousted from his job on the White House National Security Council on Friday, just two days after the Senate acquitted Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of justice charges. He is to be reassigned by the Pentagon.
Trump has already been sharply criticized for pushing out Vindman and others who crossed him in the impeachment hearings.
Asked whether he wanted to see Vindman face discipline, Trump said military officials "can handle him any way they want" but also suggested that he expected commanders to review the decorated, 20-year officer's conduct.
"That's going to be up the military," Trump said. "We'll have to see. They are certainly, I imagine, going to take a look at that."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper was asked earlier what the Pentagon would do to ensure that Vindman faces no retribution.
"We protect all of our service members from retribution or anything like that," Esper said. "We've already addressed that in policy and other means."
His twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, also served on the NSC and was ousted from his job. He is to be assigned to the Army General Counsel's Office.
Vindman's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
President Donald Trump on Friday criticized Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for voting guilty on two articles of impeachment, aiming to weaken the senator's political standing in a state Trump carried by a whopping 42 percentage points in 2016.
Trump tweeted that he was "very surprised & disappointed" with Manchin's votes. He claimed no president has done more for the state.
Trump asserted in a subsequent tweet that Manchin was "just a puppet" for the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.
"That's all he is!" Trump tweeted.
Manchin said in announcing his decision on the impeachment vote Wednesday that the evidence presented by House managers clearly supported the charges brought against the president.
"I take no pleasure in these votes, and am saddened this is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren," Manchin said. "I have always wanted this president, and every president, to succeed, but I deeply love our country and must do what I think is best for the nation."
Manchin's office didn't immediately comment Friday evening.
In West Virginia, the Republican leader of the state Senate said "there's just a general sense of shock" after Manchin's vote.
"You cannot walk this back," said Senate President Mitch Carmichael. "I think he yielded to the pressure of the national Democrats to stay united on this issue with the Washington liberal establishment."
Manchin remained publicly undecided on impeachment until essentially the last minute, saying he wanted to get all the evidence he could before casting his vote. He stirred speculation about his intentions when he floated the idea of censuring the president, though the move didn't gain much traction, and again when he said that Hunter Biden would be a relevant witness in the trial.
West Virginia Sen. Roman Prezioso, the Democratic minority leader of the state Senate, said it's often hard to know where Manchin is going to come down on an issue.
"Anyone who knows him knows he's not a puppet," Prezioso said. "He's an independent voice, he'll make a decision predicated on the facts."
Manchin is serving his second term as a U.S. senator, and has also served as the state's governor. He and Trump appeared to have a warmer relationship than the president has with most Democratic lawmakers. Trump invited him to the White House in August when the president presented former basketball player Bob Cousy with the Medal of Freedom. A month later, Manchin was again at the White House when Trump presented the Medal of Freedom to another former basketball great, Jerry West.
Republicans have gained the upper hand in West Virginia in recent decades. But the moderate Manchin won a second full term to the Senate in the 2018 elections in a tight race against a Trump-backed challenger.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who voted against impeachment, told Fox News on Thursday that people in the state are "rather mystified" by Manchin's vote.
"I just feel that probably Senator Schumer just pulled the noose a little tight and said 'come on, everybody, we're going to jump off this cliff together,' and back here, West Virginians, they're very surprised," she said.
The two leaders of Milwaukee's host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention were fired late Tuesday amid allegations that they oversaw a toxic work environment, a dramatic shakeup less than six months before the showcase political event in swing state Wisconsin.
The host committee board issued a statement saying that the group's president, Liz Gilbert, and its chief of staff, Adam Alonso, were no longer employed by the organization effective immediately. The firings came a day after Gilbert and Alonso were placed on leave pending an investigation.
Gilbert and Alonso did not immediately return messages Tuesday seeking comment.
"Every employee has a right to feel respected in their workplace," the committee board said. "Based on the information we have learned to date, we believe the work environment did not meet the ideals and expectations of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee Board of Directors."
The host committee is a civic, nonpartisan group responsible for raising the $70 million, recruiting the 15,000 volunteers and providing the facilities needed to put on the convention in July. The Democratic National Convention Committee runs the convention and is separate from the host committee.
Joe Solmonese, the chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said the "gravity of the concernd raised" demanded a serious and meaningful response and he was grateful for the board acting promptly to address the issue.
"Employees who take a stand and call for respect, fairness, and safety in their workplace have our full support, and I am proud of the Host Committee employees who courageously came forward," Solmonese said in a statement.
Teresa Vilmain, described as a Wisconsin resident and convention veteran, was named as manager of day-to-day operations during the transition.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported on the investigation and obtained an unsigned letter, verified by one of the women who worked on it, sent Jan. 30 from "senior women" of the host committee to the Milwaukee 2020 board of directors. They allege that Alonso "consistently bullied and intimidated staff members," primarily the women. They said his "mismanagement" was enabled by Gilbert, creating a "toxic and unstable working environment" and fostered "a culture that coddles male senior advisers and consultants" They described a fear of retribution and lack of trust among staff.
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said earlier Tuesday that he was concerned about the allegations, but not what impact they would have on raising money and other work to prepare for the convention.
"If the allegations are strong, we need to take them seriously," Evers told reporters. "I don't believe it's going to have an impact, the convention is going to happen and we're going to get it off the ground in a good way. But I'm really happy we're doing an investigation."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who worked behind the scenes to land the convention in Wisconsin, called the allegations "serious."
"Everyone working to make this convention a success deserves a leadership team of unquestioned integrity," she said in a statement before the firings.
Alonso was fired less than a week after he was involved with a controversy in his home state of New Jersey, where both he and Gilbert are top-ranking Democratic operatives.
Julie Roginsky, a former consultant to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, said his 2017 campaign was a "hotbed of toxicity" and she experienced "rank misogyny." She did not specifically name Alonso, who worked on the campaign, but said the campaign manager had used a vulgarity toward her. He denied it but said he had cursed at her and apologized.
The governor's office disagreed with Roginsky and said her comments stemmed from strategic differences.
Roginsky also alleged that Alonso tried to use his ties to the governor to generate business from lobbyists for his personal consulting firm.
Alonso denied the claims in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Federal election filings show that both Alonso and Gilbert continued getting paid by Democratic clients in New Jersey after they started working for the nonpartisan host committee in Milwaukee last year. Alonso was paid $65,000 through his consulting firm by the New Jersey Democratic Party since late May when he started work for the host committee. Gilbert was paid $5,000 through her consulting firm by the New Jersey Democratic Party since she started working for the host committee in September.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee said in a statement that it was no longer affiliated with Alonso and his consulting firm the Cratos Group but did not explain why.