Did McCabe Firing Violate Sessions’ Recusal? Watchdog Calls for Investigation

American Oversight Files 8 FOIA Requests with DOJ and FBI Seeking McCabe Firing Records

Nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today called on Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions violated his recusal obligations in terminating former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. American Oversight also filed eight Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with DOJ and the FBI demanding the release of records related to Sessions’ participation in the McCabe firing.

“President Trump has made it crystal clear that he wants the Justice Department to serve as his own, personal, political prosecution force, and once again it appears that Attorney General Sessions has caved to the president’s demands, this time in direct violation of DOJ ethics rules,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “Instead of bowing to the president, Sessions should have listened to the career DOJ ethics officials who made clear that he should not participate in any matter related to the 2016 campaigns, which clearly includes firing Andrew McCabe for issues related to this investigation of Hillary Clinton.”

Under DOJ regulations, Sessions is barred from participating in any activity related to the 2016 presidential election—but Sessions allegedly fired McCabe over his conduct during an investigation of then-2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

According to statements from DOJ and Sessions, McCabe’s termination was recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) after OPR reviewed a report on McCabe’s conduct from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Horowitz’s report—which has not been made public—is said to have found that McCabe released unauthorized details about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation to the media, and “lacked candor” when questioned by DOJ about it. OPR recommended McCabe’s firing, and DOJ issued a statement under Sessions’ name last Friday, March 16, announcing Sessions’ decision to fire McCabe.

American Oversight’s letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz highlights Sessions’ history of apparently violating his recusal obligations on matters related to the 2016 election, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, relaunching investigations related to Hillary Clinton that Mr. Sessions himself cited in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate, and most recently, the firing of McCabe.

On Monday, American Oversight submitted eight FOIA requests targeting records and communications between DOJ, the FBI, and the White House related to McCabe’s firing. Specifically, the requests seek:

  • Ethics analyses and recusal determinations from DOJ related to Sessions’ participation in McCabe’s firing, as well as calendar entries for Sessions related to McCabe’s termination and meeting agendas for those entries;
  • And all communications regarding McCabe’s termination between:
    • the Office of the Attorney General and the FBI;
    • the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and the FBI;
    • Office of the Attorney General and White House personnel;
    • Office of the Deputy Attorney General and White House personnel;
    • the Office of the FBI Director and White House personnel;
    • the FBI, including Office of the Director and OPR, and the Office of the Attorney General; and
    • the FBI, including Office of the Director and OPR, and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.

Evers added: “While sanctioning McCabe for alleged ‘lack of candor,” Sessions has never taken responsibility for his own lack of candor in Senate testimony and his security clearance form about his Russia contacts. He also clearly lacked candor when he promised to recuse himself from these cases.”

American Oversight’s letter to the DOJ Inspector General: