Originally Published October 30, 2016
EDITORIAL UPDATE – January 29, 2018: As news of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s “removal” breaks today, it is worth remembering a very important and under-reported aspect of the McCabe story as it relates to the Clinton campaign, the Russia collusion story, and to the first year of the Trump presidency.
The original reporting below was published in the waning days of the 2016 presidential contest, and relates to conduct that occurred more than a year earlier in connection with the 2015 Virginia Senate elections. In it, the reader will find evidence that then-Governor Terry McAuliffe’s organization was serving to keep Team Clinton’s political operation together in the run up to the 2016 election. Further, as is widely known, Team Clinton and their donors directed an enormous amount of cash to the campaign of a political newcomer who just happened to be married to a senior FBI official who would oversee the investigation of the Clinton email scandal, among other things. What has not been as widely considered are the circumstances by which Andrew McCabe’s wife Jill was handed the nomination to the Senate seat in question.
As detailed in our original October 30, 2016 post, below, Team Clinton strong-armed the local unit of the Democratic Party into giving the nomination to McCabe, a complete newcomer to politics who was an unknown in local Democratic circles, and whose previous political participation had reportedly included voting in the 2012 Republican primary. This effort came at the expense of the principal existing candidate for that office, a well known Democratic activist who was a retired Army colonel and respected local attorney who had been recruited by the local party to run. All of which, of course, suggests ulterior motives for Team Clinton’s moves to replace him with someone married to a senior FBI official who would later fail to recuse himself from an investigation involving Clinton.
You can draw your own conclusions from there, but at the very least, this undermines the credibility of the FBI on questions involving the 2016 election, and further calls into question the handling of related investigations (and their associated leaks and behind the scenes machinations) since then.
Last week, Governor Terry McAuliffe blamed political “silly season” for revelations that the FBI official overseeing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email matter was married to a candidate for Virginia Senate who received over $650,000 from McAuliffe’s Common Good VA PAC and the Democratic Party of Virginia.
McAuliffe has claimed that his support for Jill McCabe in her run against incumbent Sen. Dick Black (R-Loudoun) had nothing to do with the fact that her husband was a senior FBI official. That may be true, but so far it still remains a largely under-examined question.
First, McAuliffe claimed that his backing McCabe for the Democratic nomination came about prior to the email scandal breaking open. That’s not entirely true. While we know that it hadn’t quite risen to full heights of scandal, we also know that Team Clinton was fully acquainted with its potential trajectory well before the rest of us were. What McAuliffe wants you to believe is that because you didn’t know there was some likelihood of Hillary Clinton and/or Terry McAuliffe needing a friend at the FBI, that they didn’t know either. Right.
Here’s the relevant timeline:
Late 2014/Early 2015: In response to State Department requests, Hillary Clinton’s staff reviewed thousands of emails to determine which ones should be turned over as official correspondence. They produced 55,000 pages of emails. Needless to say, Team Clinton has become aware at this time of a vulnerability surrounding these emails.
March 2, 2015: News breaks publicly that Hillary Clinton used a personal server for emails while serving as Secretary of State.
March 7, 2015: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, one of Clinton’s closest friends and political allies, meets with both Jill and Andrew McCabe to recruit Jill to run for the Virginia Senate against incumbent Sen. Dick Black (R-Loudoun). Dr. McCabe had no previous record in politics, hadn’t been active locally, hadn’t made any donations to Democrats, and in fact reportedly chose to vote in the 2012 Republican primary. She was, quite literally, an unknown in Democratic political circles in her district.
March 9, 2015: A prominent attorney and retired Army Colonel, Tom Mulrine, had been recruited to run for the Democratic nomination for the 13th District Senate seat by local Democrats. Mulrine, who is not married to a senior FBI official, was then convinced to step aside and clear the way for McCabe’s nomination.
Prominent local Democrats such as John Flannery attributed this very clearly to the Governor’s interference:
According to the Roanoke Times:
Mulrine said he chose to step aside after it became clear that McAuliffe and Democratic dollars were lining up behind McCabe. Mulrine called McCabe a “very good person” but said she was unknown to many in the Loudoun-centered Senate district.
“I had never heard of her,” Mulrine said.
What doesn’t appear to have been reported elsewhere is that Mulrine later in 2015 accepted a state board appointment from Governor McAuliffe. Mulrine is a veteran, so I’m absolutely, positively, 100% sure that appointment was made only because Mulrine happened to be the most qualified person for a seat on the board of the Virginia Veterans Services Foundation. Sure.
Here’s another interesting wrinkle. As is widely known, and as we reported last year, McAuliffe’s political operation in Virginia served as place to keep key Hillary Clinton campaign staff employed before they would transition to the presidential race. Among those who worked for McAuliffe’s PAC or the state party before working directly for Clinton are Clinton Virginia field director Brian Zuzenak. As The Daily Mail details:
Zuzenak, who oversaw the donations to Jill McCabe, left Common Good VA last May to join the Clinton campaign as its Virginia field director.
He isn’t alone in the move. Common Good VA’s executive director Michael Halle also joined the Clinton campaign as battleground analytics director in the spring of 2015.
The group’s former fundraiser, Amanda McTyre, is now a finance director for Clinton, and staffer Marissa Astor left to become an assistant Clinton campaign manager.
Virginia election records show that Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook, a former McAuliffe aide, was also on the Common Good VA payroll before he joined her presidential campaign.
Where it gets slightly more interesting—and what further undermines what McAuliffe wants you to believe about the Clinton’s scandals not being on their mind at the time they strong-armed the nomination of Jill McCabe—is the involvement of Josh Schwerin.
Schwerin is Clinton’s national spokesman. But in early March 2015, before being paid $6,000 later that month from the Democratic Party of Virginia’s state (not federal) account, Schwerin was already knee deep in spinning the email story for the Clinton campaign. As reported by CNN, on March 10, Clinton’s campaign released a 9-page PDF document to members of the press, purporting to explain Clinton’s reasoning behind using her own personal server for State Department correspondence. Josh Schwerin is listed as the author in the document’s metadata.
Second, McAuliffe and his allies have pointed to the fact that at the time of McCabe’s recruitment, her husband wasn’t among the most senior personnel at FBI, so they couldn’t have envisioned wanting him as an ally. This is more than a bit misleading.
Andrew McCabe was very much a rising star in the FBI at the time. Between October 2013 and January 2016 (a span of a little more than two years), McCabe got three promotions within the agency. First, less than a year after being appointed Executive Assistant Director for the FBI’s National Security Branch, in September 2014 McCabe assumed the role of Assistant Director in charge of the Washington Field Office. Then, the following July (when his wife’s campaign to unseat Sen. Black is in full swing), McCabe is appointed Associate Deputy Director of the FBI, the third most senior position behind the Director and Deputy Director. At this time it was probably known that then-Deputy Director Mark Giuliano was planning to retire six months later, so it is unlikely to have been a surprise to those with an inside track in the Obama administration that McCabe was pegged to take over as FBI Director James Comey’s second in command. This is just a surmise, and is not something that has been publicly confirmed.
What has been publicly confirmed is that 98% of the McAuliffe-directed funds that went to Jill McCabe came after the FBI initiated its emails investigation, and after Andrew McCabe became the number three guy (and quite possibly the heir apparent to the number two slot).
So much for this just being “silly season.” The Clinton team, which at the time included McAuliffe, DPVA, and Common Good VA as integral pieces, very much knew about the brewing email troubles when they courted the political neophyte who happened to be married to a very senior rising star inside the FBI, and were painfully aware of it before they invested well over half a million dollars in that neophyte’s long shot campaign. Moreover, there was a completely separate Clinton scandal brewing at the time, that we now know has been under investigation by the FBI, that involved the Clinton Foundation. This latter scandal may also involve Governor McAuliffe himself.
This doesn’t prove that McAuliffe was consciously investing in a relationship with Andrew McCabe. But it does show that McAuliffe would have been aware throughout this period that having a friend at the FBI might come in handy in the not too distant future.
Updated Note 01/29/18: This is, I suspect, all very unfortunate for Jill and Andrew McCabe. While the optics look bad for McAuliffe especially, we are not insinuating that either of the McCabes in 2015 knowingly engaged in any sort of pay-to-play arrangement. Andrew McCabe’s professional reputation prior to this episode had been impeccable. But he did fail to recuse himself from an investigation involving Hillary Clinton, when his wife had recently received a Senate nomination and $650,000 in campaign donations from Team Clinton. Although press reports indicate McCabe willingly instituted a policy of recusal from any matters involving Virginia politics, the fact of the matter with Terry McAuliffe is that his politics are deeply and inextricably intertwined with national politics. Close Clinton associate Doug Band (most recently of notoriety for funneling funds into “Clinton, Inc.” for the personal enrichment of Bill and Hillary Clinton), donated $50,000 to McAuliffe’s PAC during this time. A number of Clinton fundraising “bundlers” made large donations, too, including two for $100,000 apiece. And the list goes on, with all of the donations accepted and later disbursed by people who are currently working for Hillary Clinton.