That disclosure was self-serving, the IG said, and wasn’t in the interest of the FBI or the public. But the leak itself is less of an issue in the IG report than McCabe’s alleged attempts to conceal his role in it. The report states that shortly after the disclosure, at an October 31 staff meeting, McCabe gave Comey the impression that he played no role in the Journal story. Subsequently, the report states, McCabe misled internal investigators over a period of months about his involvement—including during interviews conducted under oath. In Bromwich’s telling, McCabe disclosed the information to protect the FBI “against false claims” of political bias, and the lack-of-candor charge was “more properly understood as the result of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and honest failures of recollection based on the swirl of events around him, statements which he subsequently corrected.”
According to the report, McCabe’s disclosure also “effectively confirmed the existence” of the Clinton Foundation probe, which Comey “had previously refused to do.” That kind of disclosure—affirming the existence of an FBI probe against a political candidate close to an election—is against longstanding Justice Department rules.
If those rules sound familiar, it’s because Comey, more famously, violated them. Just two days before the publication of the Journal story, and less than two weeks before the 2016 election, he revealed to Congress that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email system.
That fact highlights an additional irony. McCabe and Comey are both targets of Trump’s wrath, and are key figures in the alleged deep-state conspiracy against the White House. But they were both fired, ostensibly, because of their roles in disclosing information related to Clinton, not Trump. While the president ultimately admitted that he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing,” the White House initially argued it was because of his public handling of the Clinton email matter, which was separate from the foundation investigation.
Another similarity? In both cases, there were credible accusations of misconduct that critics allege were used as pretext for political retribution. The possibility that McCabe and Comey were punished for displeasing the president, rather than any abuse of authority, sends an alarming message: that under the Trump administration, the latter may be excused, but the former is unforgivable.