A top FBI official whose wife received political donations from an ally of Hillary Clinton’s last year does not need to recuse himself from the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation, the bureau said Wednesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee inquired last month about FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s role on the Trump probe, which is looking into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, had expressed concerns about a potential conflict of interest given that McCabe’s wife ran a state campaign in Virginia that received $700,000 from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Clinton’s.
Grassley noted in a March 28 letter to FBI Director James Comey that the McCabes met with McAuliffe on March 7, 2015, several days after the story broke that Clinton used a private email server as secretary of state.
In the response letter to Grassley, FBI Assistant Director Gregory Bower both confirmed that McCabe is involved in the Trump investigation and denied that a recusal was necessary.
“With respect to the questions you raised regarding Mr. McCabe recusing himself from participation in this investigation, the FBI has assessed that there is no basis in law or in fact for such a recusal,” Bower wrote.
“As the Deputy Director of the FBI, Mr. McCabe is ultimately responsible for supervising all of the FBI’s investigative activities, including the investigation referenced in your letter,” he continued, adding that McCabe has been involved in the investigation since its inception.
It is believed that the FBI opened the Trump-Russia investigation last July. As part of the probe, the bureau obtained a federal surveillance warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign policy adviser. Former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Roger Stone are also reportedly being investigated.
In last month’s letter, Grassley asked for details of McCabe’s handling of the case, including whether McCabe has handled an uncorroborated dossier compiled by a former British spy alleging various links between the Trump team and Kremlin.
It was reported last month that the FBI agreed in October to pay Steele to continue an investigation into any Trump ties to Russia. And on Tuesday, CNN reported that the FBI cited the salacious dossier in its application for the surveillance warrant on Page.
The FBI’s involvement with the dossier has raised red flags for Grassley since Steele was being paid for his investigation by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was working for a political ally of Clinton’s.
“Mr. McCabe’s appearance of a partisan conflict of interest relating to Clinton associates only magnifies the importance of those questions. That is particularly true if Mr. McCabe was involved in approving or establishing the FBI’s reported arrangement with Mr. Steele, or if Mr. McCabe vouched for or otherwise relied on the politically-funded dossier in the course of the investigation,” Grassley wrote in last month’s letter.
“Simply put, the American people should know if the FBI’s second-in-command relied on Democrat-funded opposition research to justify an investigation of the Republican presidential campaign.”
Fusion’s Democratic client has yet to be identified.