Since 2015 or earlier, multiple FBI field offices have been involved in an investigation of the Clinton Foundation. However, in February 2016, the FBI appealed to the Justice Department for additional investigative powers, such as having a grand jury empaneled to gain subpoena power, but the department said no. The investigation continued anyway, without the additional powers the department can give.
In October 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report that on August 12, 2016, an unnamed senior Justice Department official calls Andrew McCabe (who was promoted to deputy FBI director one month earlier) to voice his displeasure at finding that New York FBI agents are still openly pursuing the Clinton Foundation investigation during the election season, with Hillary Clinton being one of the major candidates.
McCabe allegedly replies that FBI agents still have the authority to pursue the issue as long as they don’t use methods requiring Justice Department approvals.
The Journal will report, “The Justice Department official was ‘very pissed off,’ according to one person close to Mr. McCabe, and pressed him to explain why the FBI was still chasing a matter the department considered dormant. Others said the Justice Department was simply trying to make sure FBI agents were following longstanding policy not to make overt investigative moves that could be seen as trying to influence an election. Those rules discourage investigators from making any such moves before a primary or general election, and, at a minimum, checking with anti-corruption prosecutors before doing so.”
McCabe allegedly asks the department official, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?”
After a pause, the official allegedly replies, “Of course not.”
The Journal will further report, “For Mr. McCabe’s defenders, the exchange showed how he was stuck between an FBI office eager to pour more resources into a case and Justice Department prosecutors who didn’t think much of the case, one person said. Those people said that following the call, Mr. McCabe reiterated past instructions to FBI agents that they were to keep pursuing the work within the authority they had.”
But according to “others further down the FBI chain of command,” FBI agents “were given a much starker instruction on the case: ‘Stand down.’ When agents questioned why they weren’t allowed to take more aggressive steps, they said they were told the order had come from the deputy director—Mr. McCabe. Others familiar with the matter deny Mr. McCabe or any other senior FBI official gave such a stand-down instruction.”
According to the Journal, some agents within the FBI believe that McCabe and other FBI leaders weren’t defending the investigation strongly enough, while others believe that McCabe’s behavior was correct. Either way, the investigation continues, but still without that subpoena power that can only come from Justice Department support. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)
McCabe has a conflict of interest with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who in turn is being investigated by the FBI for activities that could involve the Clinton Foundation.