Andrew McCabe: Not Illegal For Americans To Contract Out Opposition Research To Foreign Individuals

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Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said the impeachment of President Donald Trump is "absolutely" warranted in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday. McCabe denounced Trump, saying there is a difference between taking information acquired "illegally" from "representatives" of a hostile foreign government while defending Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, as CNN's Chris Cuomo put it, "paying Russians for information to amass a dossier."

"Does the argument that, yes, OK, you shouldn't have Russians giving you anything and you shouldn't have been paying Russians for information to amass a dossier the way Clinton did -- do you see these as analogs?" Cuomo asked McCabe.
 
"Not at all, Chris. There's no equivalence between those two examples," McCabe responded. "To openly invite foreign intelligence officers, representatives from a hostile foreign government to steal information, to acquire opposition research in anyway, in any illegal way that they might do that and to present it to you is one thing."





"For a campaign to hire a law firm, an American law firm who then turns around and hires an American research company that then contracts out with a foreign individual, that is not illegal," McCabe emphasized.

McCabe also commended British operative Christopher Steele for informing them of his dossier because "he was so troubled."

"The example of the Clinton campaign, it was that very foreign individual who stepped forward and provided the information he had collected to the FBI simply because he was so troubled by what he was seeing," he said.

"Absolutely," McCabe said of a Trump impeachment inquiry. "Chris, I’m not a political person. I’m not a political operative. I respect the House leadership and the fact that they maybe considering, you know, a lot of polls and political strategy in the way they’re figuring out what to do next. That’s not my business."


Transcript, via CNN:

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST:  Former acting FBI director here tonight, Andrew McCabe, says the latest comments from the president reaffirm what raised red flags for him back in 2017.  He is the author of “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump”. 
 
Good to have you back. 
 
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR:  Thanks, Chris.  Good to be here. 
 
CUOMO:  So, Andrew, there is a big division between what the president and his people want the message to be on this.  The president says it's OK to take information.  Rudy Giuliani says it's OK to take information from the Russians.  Jared Kushner says, I don't know if I got solicited again for information from the Russians , whether I would tell the FBI. 
 
What is the line for you?  And why do you believe they deal with it this way? 
 
MCCABE:  Chris, the line for me, the line for investigators in the FBI, the line of experienced people in politics, campaign after campaign after campaign, the line is very clear -- it is not acceptable to take anything from a foreign power, certainly not a hostile foreign power, certainly not the government of Russia. 
 
The reason we have such clear lines about this sort of activity is because of the importance of keeping foreign influence out of our elections.  So, when the president gets on television last night and tells the world that he thinks it's perfectly fine to sit down with foreign agents, to sit down with representatives, possibly even from Russia, to hear what they have to say and to receive what they are offering is just absolutely wrong. 
 
The president and his supporters are wrong about that. 
 
CUOMO:  Now, we have to assume they know what the law is.  I know that Don Jr. got a pass from Mueller because they couldn’t prove that he did know that he was breaking the law, one of the rare instances that mistake of the law works in your favor.
 
But why do you think they flout what is a pretty obvious standard? 
 
MCCABE:  You know, I don't know if I can answer that conclusively for you, Chris.  It did seem to me as I listen to the president's comments last night that what we are witnessing is yet another example of the president's efforts to try to normalize his own aberrant behavior, to try to normalize his departure from precedent and in this case possibly violations of law.  And he does that by tossing off these comments in an offhanded way, and then couching them with phrases like, OK, because everybody does it. 
 
It's clearly not OK.  We’ve heard that from the Federal Election Commission leadership today, and it's well within the understanding of anybody that's ever been involved in this business.  It's just not something that you do because the stakes are so high. 
 
CUOMO:  Does the argument that, yes, OK, you shouldn't have Russians giving you anything and you shouldn't have been paying Russians for information to amass a dossier the way Clinton did -- do you see these as analogs? 
 
MCCABE:  Not at all, Chris.  There's no equivalence between those two examples.  To say -- to openly invite foreign intelligence officers, representatives from a hostile foreign government to steal information, to acquire opposition research in anyway, in any illegal way that they might do that and to present it to you is one thing.  To -- for a campaign to hire a law firm, an American law firm who then turns around and hires an American research company that then contracts out with a foreign individual, that is not illegal. 
 
Campaigns are allowed to hire individuals -- 
 
CUOMO:  Right.
 
MCCABE:  -- foreign individuals and to pay those individuals for the services that they provide. 
 
And it would add too, Chris, that the example of the Clinton campaign, it was that very foreign individual who stepped forward and provided the information he had collected to the FBI simply because he was so troubled by what he was seeing.  So, it's odd that a foreign individual involved in the campaign process was familiar enough with the threat and with the concerns that that information posed that he stepped forward and provided it to the FBI -- not something obviously that the president and his staff would be willing to do. 
 
CUOMO:  Let me ask you something, if it happens again, God forbid, and we see proof that it was once again designed to help the Trump campaign, do you have any concerns about whether this attorney general, this DOJ leadership would even open an investigation if it were going to be into the president? 
 
MCCABE:  I think that's a great question, Chris.  I don't have any concerns that the men and women of the FBI, the folks who watch Russia every single day, spend their careers trying to hold back Russian aggression, I don’t have any doubt that they would make the same recommendations that when they have information that indicates a threat to national security exists, that an investigation should be pursued.
 
Whether or not the leadership at the Justice Department -- 
 
CUOMO:  Right.
 
MCCABE:  -- would support an investigation like that right now or in the future is a very good question. 
 
I sincerely hope we don't have the facts to find out the answer to that question, but from all indications, from the lack of activity that Congress and others have focused on protecting our election systems, it is, I think, the future for our elections and the possibility of foreign influence and foreign meddling is one that we better start confronting in a serious way. 
 
CUOMO:  We are told that the A.G. wants to investigate the investigators.  Do you have anything that you regret?  And what do you think the chances are that in that investigation, they find that people at the top, whether it was you or somebody else -- let's say somebody else, not you -- did things that they should not have done or did them in a way they should not have done them?  What do you think the chances that comes up? 
 
MCCABE:  I'd be very surprised to hear about anything like that emanating from the decisions that were made or the actions that were taken within the FBI.  I’m very familiar with those actions and those decisions.  I wouldn't make any of the decisions I made any differently, and I know that we’ve been down this road before.  We’ve been under investigation about the events of the Russian investigation and, of course, the Clinton e-mail investigation since January of 2017. 
 
And so far, the efforts of the I.G. and others who have looked into it have found repeatedly no indication of bias, no indication of improper considerations in any of the decisions we made.  So, I’d be surprised to hear anything different coming from this investigation. 
 
CUOMO:  Put on a different hat for a second.  You're working as counsel for Congress now and they come to you and say, what's your opinion on this?  Should we impeach or not?  Do you think we have what we need for an impeachment inquiry? 
 
Because, clearly, their stuff -- but I think they're looking at it through a political lenses of consequence more than anything else.  Do you believe an impeachment inquiry is warranted based on what you understand and what has come out of the Mueller report? 
 
MCCABE:  Absolutely.  Chris, I’m not a political person.  I’m not a political operative.  I respect the House leadership and the fact that they maybe considering, you know, a lot of polls and political strategy in the way they’re figuring out what to do next. That’s not my business.
 
My business is investigations, evidence, finding information and exposing that information when the American public has the right to know it.  I think we are clearly there with the results of the special counsel team.  There are so many witnesses that could provide important essential testimony to Congress that can only be done in the scope of an impeachment inquiry. 
 
I think that action should be taken immediately and I think people should finally hear for themselves exactly what those witnesses have to say.  Whether or not that results in articles of impeachment -- 
 
CUOMO:  Right.
 
MCCABE:  -- and a trial in the Senate and all of those sorts of things is beside the point.  I think the American people have a right to hear from the witnesses and understand exactly what actions the president engaged in and they have the opportunity to factor that information into their decisions, their voting decisions, whatever that might be going forward. 
 
The time has come to get that information out. 
 
CUOMO:  Andrew McCabe, thank you very much.  As we understand more and we need more understanding, I welcome you back on the show.  Thank you, sir. 

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