For years James Comey and Robert Mueller, as FBI directors, knew Andrew McCabe maintained problematic contacts with Russian officials including organized crime figures yet did little to investigate the now-FBI deputy director’s relationships even after other agents caught McCabe tampering in Russian-linked cases, FBI sources said.
And while both Comey and Mueller have used the unlimited resources of the United States government to try and tie President Donald Trump to Russia, the former FBI chiefs largely ignored McCabe’s associations with Russian mobsters and a Putin-linked billionaire under federal investigation by their own Bureau.
The same Russian billionaire at the center of Mueller’s recent indictment of Paul Manafort.
Incredibly, Comey put McCabe in charge of running the FBI’s Russian investigation of President Trump to find supposed election collusion by Trump and his inner circle – including family members and Gen. Mike Flynn. McCabe’s probe of Trump and its evidence, which was spearheaded by now disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok, was turned over to Mueller when he was appointed Special Counsel after Comey’s firing by Trump.
Likewise, FBI sources confirmed Mueller was aware of McCabe’s problematic Russian contacts yet still took the now-disgraced Strzok on as a lead investigator to his Special Counsel team as well as the physical and witness evidence that McCabe had amassed on the Trump probe during his investigation under Comey.
Even officials at CIA were concerned about McCabe’s Russian contacts, sources confirm.
So how could a FBI agent – let alone the deputy director of the Bureau – be permitted to lead or conduct an investigation of the president of the United States for Russian collusion when the FBI agent in question has problematic associations with shady Russians himself?
McCabe climbed quickly through the FBI’s ranks forging a reputation as a supervisor who always got the job done while his bosses often looked the other way. That seems to be a recurring theme when investigating the day-today operations of the FBI in recent years.
But both Mueller and Comey seemed to either miss or ignore — or condone — major signs of problematic Russian associations and case red flags linked to McCabe, including:
- FBI Agents accused McCabe of interfering with Russian-linked investigations, including the Boston Marathon terror bombing and the Robert Levinson kidnapping cases, even making a formal complaint with FBI Security Division about the incidents.
- McCabe for years worked Russian organized crime in New York for the FBI, previous to his Washington D.C. rise. He led the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, a joint operation with the NYPD.
- While in New York, McCabe worked in tandem with Bruce Ohr, the recently demoted DOJ official linked to the Trump fake dossier who often coordinated with McCabe’s Russian organized crime task force. Ohr worked Organized Crime too for DOJ. Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS and previously worked for the CIA.
- McCabe maintained an alliance with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska a tycoon and close associate of Vladimir Putin. And McCabe apparently met with him in Europe without proper clearance from FBI, while Deripaska was a possible target on a FBI organized crime probe. McCabe also privately acknowledged to FBI agents that Deripaska was a friend.
- Yes, this is the same Deripaska who was trumpeted as part of Mueller’s recent Paul Manafort indictment. If Manafort’s connections to Deripaska’s billions helped indict him, why didn’t McCabe’s associations with the oligarch warrant similar investigation by the very man, Mueller, who slammed Manafort?
- During McCabe’s liaisons with Deripaska, Strzok was running the FBI’s Post-Adjudication Risk Management plan, or PARM, a program initiated to catch problematic and criminal associations of FBI agents. Strzok and PARM should have snagged McCabe’s Russian associations, especially Deripaska. Many agents were fired for far less, under the stringent internal program. Where was Strzok’s oversight of McCabe or did Strzok simply look the other way?
- CIA officials looked at McCabe’s Russian contacts, especially Deripaska, fearing a possible data breach like convicted FBI spy Robert Hanssen.
Just months before the Trump launched his presidential bid, FBI agents had complained and lodged at least one formal grievance with supervisors and the FBI Security Division detailing how McCabe had been meddling with a number of cases with Russian links, suspects and witnesses. Similar complaints reached Sen. Chuck Grassley as early as June 2015, FBI sources confirm.
When Special Agents worked the Boston Marathon bombing, they kept tripping over McCabe who was the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the task force investigating the terror incident.
When agents accessed computer databases searching for suspects, McCabe had already been there. When they looked at banking records and financials of suspects, McCabe had already been there.
When Special Agents worked the Robert Levinson kidnapping case in Iran — another McCabe-supervised case – they found McCabe had been accessing databases and performing the work of a case agent without debriefing Comey or members of the task force he was supervising
“Really strange things kept showing up with his (McCabe’s) tag on it,” one FBI source said.
Why was McCabe seemingly conducting his own private Intel sweeps on Russian-related cases, even interviewing fact witnesses instead of the agents he was charged with supervising? ASAC’s and SAC’s very rarely roll up their sleeves and jump into the grind of an investigation.
Yet McCabe did.
THE PUTIN-LINKED OLIGARCH
And by 2015 even officials at the Central Intelligence Agency became concerned about McCabe’s contact with Russian officials, according the federal law enforcement sources. The CIA’s Counter Espionage Division may have opened a formal a case on McCabe, after intelligence about his contacts with Russians sparked a review of his foreign associates, sources said.
“There may have been an official case,” one CIA source confirmed. “I know for a fact he was looked at informally, where we would see what he was doing with foreign contacts. A formal case would be classified and I couldn’t get into the details if it hinged on Russian organized crime.”
The agency source said McCabe was on the CIA’s radar after 2009 and 2010 when agency officials got word McCabe may have he met with Deripaska in Europe.
FBI organized crime investigators had apparently been looking at Deripaska at the time of the meeting, FBI sources said and McCabe, as FBI brass, did not seek the proper approval from Mueller — FBI director at the time — or DOJ brass to sit down with the Deripaska.
“He really had no business meeting with Deripaska and sort of forced his way into the trip at the last minute,” one FBI source said. “He kept in touch with Deripaska and was very touchy about anyone else (from the FBI) speaking to him. Andy took an active role (with Deripaska).”
Two FBI Agents were sanctioned by Mueller’s office to interview Deripaska in Europe. McCabe was FBI upper echelon and was not approved to speak to Deripaska, sources said. In fact, it appears FBI policy would have required McCabe to get a waiver signed by DOJ officials to be permitted to meet with Deripaska, especially since Deripaska was a potential player in an open FBI investigation.
McCabe had pulled a similar move later, meeting with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to hatch out McCabe’s wife’s run for the Virginia State Senate. But McAuliffe was a target of a FBI corruption probe at the time, yet McCabe – as deputy director – sat with the governor and later accepted over $700,000 in campaign funds for his spouse’s failed political bid.
Like McAuliffe, McCabe did not have the proper waiver from DOJ to meet with Deripaska.
“You fucking need really high level approvals for that,” one FBI agent familiar with both cases said. “These people are potential targets in a FBI investigation.”
Many FBI sources too questioned why Mueller would sign off on McCabe’s trip to Europe to meet with Deripaska.
But McCabe and Deripaska apparently were old friends. Before McCabe’s meteoric rise in the FBI’s Washington D.C. offices, he led the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, a joint operation with the New York City Police Department run out of the FBI’s New York Field Office in Manhattan. McCabe supervised the task force who were aggressively chasing and flipping and in many cases – paying Russian organized crime figures at snitches to make high profile cases.
The CIA was quite sensitive about growing reports from FBI about McCabe’s Russian contacts, having learned hard lessons years earlier when Robert Hanssen was arrested for spying for the Russian government and the Soviet Union for more than two decades from his FBI perch. CIA assets died because of Hanssen.
After Hanssen, the Agency and the FBI vowed to instill tight controls on databases access, SIGINT, HUMINT after the Hanssen Damage Assessment Team (HDAT) shone light on how the Russian spy was able to infiltrate the federal law enforcement’s electronic backbone to sell secrets out the back door to the Russians for cash and diamonds.
Hanssen’s spying was investigated by the joint Justice Department and CIA HDAT task force. A report was issued by the Department of Justice’s Commission for the Review of FBI Security Programs and called the Hanssen data breaches “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.”
Mueller was FBI chief when the report was released and was tasked with implementing controls to prevent another Hanssen.
Putin and Russian oligarch Deripaska
On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon. Three people were killed while several hundred others were injured, including 16 who lost limbs.
A task force of FBI agents led the investigation, assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
For the initial 48 hours after the blasts, FBI agents combed through news leads, old jackets of perps, and financial databases to pinpoint and whittle down the list of suspects.
By the third day, FBI had isolated two Kyrgyz-American brothers who they linked to the blast: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. That was no simple task given that much of the massacre was captured on hundreds of public and private video feeds already recording the marathon. The images and video of the carnage went viral overnight.
One agent who helped comb through the clues and suspects said FBI agents combed numerous internal databases looking for suspects and noticed something strange. When referencing files and suspect database entries in Kyrgyzstan and the Chechen Republic, it appeared the FBI task force ASAC McCabe had already conducted many of the investigative sweeps in two countries linked heavily with Russia.
When FBI agents looked at the U.S finances of the Tsarnaevs, including their parents, McCabe too had apparently already accessed the files or looked at the brothers as suspects.
“McCabe always seemed one step ahead of the search,” the FBI agent said. “But he never shared any leads with us and we were working days without sleep. I still don’t understand why he was accessing one database at all, why a supervisor would be in there. That’s perfectly fine for a SSA (Supervisory Special Agent) but not a boss.”
The FBI agent would not disclose the name of the database in question but said after more than a decade working high-profile FBI cases they had never seen a highly-placed FBI brass access that particular database which was reserved for case agents.
“Whole thing was bizarre,” the FBI agent said.
Bizarre perhaps. But not unprecedented in FBI annals. This was right out of the Robert Hanssen trade-craft.
Robert Philip Hanssen, the former FBI brass who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services.
For over 22 years, Hanssen rose through the FBI ranks, selling U.S. intelligence secrets from 1979 to 2001. He is currently serving 15 consecutive life sentences at a federal supermax prison in Colorado.
Hanssen too was often caught by agents overstepping his bounds and access, looking at all things Russia the FBI was involved in whether he was permitted to do so or not.
Asking whether McCabe is another Hanssen is really a question best reserved for Comey and Mueller, who were supposed to clamp down on the ability of anyone in the FBI going rogue and accessing Intel in such a sweeping manner, absent setting off internal red flags, alarm bells, and compliance audits.
Both Mueller and Comey clearly failed. It appears, sources said, like Hanssen, McCabe always seemed to have his fingers in all things Russia the Bureau did. Hanssen worked the same angle for over $1 million in cash and diamonds, working as an inside counterintelligence agent reporting back to Russia the bureau’s moves like any good double-agent should.
Many agents pondered, what was McCabe’s angle?
Eight months after the Boston marathon bombing, FBI agents again experienced problematic case meddling by McCabe, sources said.
Robert Alan “Bob” Levinson is a former Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007, where it is believed he remains captive today.
U.S. officials believed Levinson was grabbed by Iranian intelligence to be dangled as a bargaining chip in sanction negotiations with Washington. After, of course, he was interrogated and likely tortured. Levinson was likely working an OP for the CIA at the time of his arrest, according to numerous public sources.
Originally, Iran disavowed any involvement in his disappearance and many in the U.S. government believed Levinson was dead. In December 2013 – almost six years after he vanished on Iran’s Kish Island – it was confirmed that Levinson indeed was alive and in Iranian captivity.
A FBI task force who had previously worked his original disappearance was quickly reassembled and dispatched with the perceived goal of getting Levinson back on U.S. soil. U.S. Diplomatic relations with Iran are almost always a mine field but U.S. Intel HUMINT connections are even worse. FBI sources said agents on the task force began reaching out to sources with better diplomatic and business ties to Iran to work back channels to start a dialogue for Levinson’s release. Special agents do what special agents do the find a trail: shake the investigative tree of former snitches to see what they know, who they know that can help. And so FBI agents began canvassing Russian mobsters, contacts, and rats who were previously on the FBI payroll. Russia and Vladimir Putin enjoyed decades of strong diplomatic alliances with Iran and for seasoned FBI agents, this was a logical place to start.
Robert Levinson, before and during Iranian captivity.
But agents working the case soon learned that McCabe had already talked to Russian sources and dialed up snitches and contacts without debriefing the team he was supervising. This was beyond bizarre. FBI ASAC’s don’t conduct ground level investigations.
And when task force members made their way up the Russian investigative food chain to Deripaska, the “shit really hit the fan,” as one agent put it.
“What happened was we got the referral from some of our other sources to talk to Deripaska who tried to help us free Levinson,” one FBI agent who worked the case said. “Then Andy (McCabe) became angry that he wasn’t told about Deripaska so he wanted to be involved. He inserted himself into the investigation and Deripaska.”
“People on the squad were like ‘What the fuck is the ASAC getting involved with this for? This is insane. What the fuck is going on here?’ “
But what the hell was McCabe doing conducting his own probe with Bureau resources and not updating his team verbally and via computer logs meant to enhance the direction of the investigation? It was his Op after all.
This was again right out of the Hanssen playbook, always having his fingers in all things Russia the Bureau did, working as an inside counterintelligence agent reporting back to Russia all the bureau’s moves like any good double-agent should.
“Looking back on it at the time you don’t recognize what is really happening because you are focused on getting Levinson back to his wife,” a FBI agent said. “But there were negotiations over the nuclear deal and sanctions and money that were heating up between Iran and Obama. We (United States) ended up paying them billions (of U.S. dollars) and McCabe may have been reporting our progress to the White House or State (Department) behind our backs. I mean, what the hell else was he doing? It makes no sense.”
Another FBI agent reflects on the Levinson case with frustration and an even more haunting revelation: “I always felt like no matter what we did it was being delayed or obstructed,” the agent said. “Like they wanted to keep him there for some reason. Or getting him back was in the way of something else that was happening. We could have done more.”
When FBI team members pitched other ways they thought they could help free Levinson from Iran, the ideas were shot down, squelched or stalled by McCabe and others.
“Every time we wanted to try something new, we were blocked,” one agent said.
Levinson worked for DEA, FBI and CIA but at the end of the day, he was a pawn. A forgotten pawn, seemingly deserted by politicians and perhaps the hierarchy of the FBI.
But where was Comey while McCabe was seemingly conducting his own investigations into the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Levinson kidnapping, and other cases? Where was the oversight, the same controls the FBI was supposed to have in place after Hanssen torched the Bureau with 22 years plus of selling America’s secrets out the back door?
And why – knowing all this – would Comey still allow McCabe and Strzok to be running point on the Hillary Clinton email investigation after Comey realized the duo withheld crucial evidence from him about Hillary’s emails.
Yes, Comey understood there was an apparent attempt to cover up Hillary evidence until after the November 2016 presidential election, when presumably Hillary would be president and none of it would have mattered anyway.
More details about that cover up on Monday.