The Department of Justice has told lawyers for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that he will not face criminal charges for allegedly lying to investigators about a leak to the media, the ex-official’s attorneys said Friday.
The decision was released on the same day it was revealed that a federal judge had expressed concerns months ago that McCabe’s case was looking like a “banana republic” prosecution.
“We write to inform you that, after careful consideration, the government has decided not to pursue criminal charges against your client,” J.P. Cooney of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., told McCabe’s attorneys in a letter Friday. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed.”
McCabe’s lawyers Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler responded in a statement, saying, “At long last, justice has been done in this matter.”
President Donald Trump had publicly urged that action be taken against McCabe, the former deputy FBI director who briefly became acting head of the agency after Trump fired James Comey in 2017.
“He LIED! LIED! LIED!” Trump wrote in one 2018 tweet about McCabe after the Justice Department’s inspector general found McCabe “lacked candor” when being interviewed about whether he was a source for two news articles pertaining to the FBI in 2016.
The Justice Department’s announcement came one day after Attorney General William Barr pushed back against criticism he’s using the department to do Trump’s bidding, and said Trump’s tweeting about his agency’s work was undercutting his authority.
“Public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” Barr, who was sworn in a year ago Friday, told ABC News.
McCabe told CNN on Friday that “the timing is curious” but he was relieved that the Justice Department “did the right thing today.”
“To have this horrific black cloud that’s been hanging over me and my family for almost the last two years, to have that finally lifted is just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s a relief that I’m not sure I can really explain to you adequately. It’s just a very emotional moment for my whole family.”
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McCabe has denied intentionally misleading investigators. He told CNN that he has maintained from the day the inspector general’s report came out that if investigators “followed the law and they followed the facts, that I would have nothing to worry about. But as the president’s interest in pursuing his perceived political enemies continued over the last two years, we were getting more and more concerned about where this would end up.”
Those worries had increased in recent days, he told the network.
“I’ve been greatly concerned by what I’ve seen take place in the White House and in the Department of Justice, quite frankly, in the last week,” McCabe said. “And certainly the president’s kind of revenge tirade following his acquittal in the impeachment proceeding has only kind of amplified my concerns about what would happen in my own case.”
The Justice Department’s decision came the same day it was required by a judge to make details about the McCabe investigation public in a case stemming from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The court transcripts, released after the Justice Department’s letter to McCabe’s lawyers, show prosecutors struggling with how to proceed in his case, and the judge in the matter expressing concerns about political pressure.
In one of the newly released transcripts, from a hearing in July, Cooney, who heads the Washington U.S. Attorney’s Office fraud unit, told the judge they expected to make a decision on whether to charge McCabe within 60 days.
When they returned to court in early September, Cooney told Judge Reggie Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, that no decision had been made, but they expected to have one within days.
At the next hearing, on Sept. 30, Cooney said “That prediction was obviously incorrect.”
The judge asked why it was taking so long.
“I don’t know why it’s so difficult for a decision to be made,” Walton said. “Either you have a case or you don’t.”
Cooney told the judge “this is an exceedingly difficult matter and situation” and that he needed another three months.
“I don’t get it,” the judge said, telling Cooney he needed to make a decision in the CREW lawsuit and that “it seems to me from the standpoint of Mr. McCabe, he has a right to have the government make a decision and not hold his life in limbo pending a decision as to what’s going to happen.”
‘It’s a banana republic’
Walton added, “I understand there are political implications and other implications involved in reference to whether you go forward. And I fully appreciate the complexity of the assessment, especially — unfortunately, to be candid — in light of the way by the White House, which I don’t think top executive officers should be doing. Because it does, I think, really complicate your ability to get a fair adjudication from the government’s prospective.
“Because the public is listening to what’s going on, and I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted,” Walton said. “I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road, and we have those type of statements being made that are conceivably, even if not, influencing the ultimate decision. I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”
“It’s very disturbing that we’re in the mess that we’re in in that regard,” Walton added later. “Because I think having been a part of the prosecution for a long time and respecting the role that prosecutors play in the system. I just think the integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government. I think it’s very unfortunate. And I think as a government and as a society, we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe in March of 2018, two days before he was set to retire and become eligible for full pension benefits.
McCabe filed suit against the Justice Department in August, saying he was fired as a result of “Trump’s unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him.”
Maura Barrett, Priscilla Thompson, Ben Kamisar and Gary Grumbach
9d ago / 9:08 PM UTC
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, are officially calling for a partial recanvassing of the results of last week’s Iowa caucuses, claiming they found discrepancies in the party’s official results that hurt their campaigns.
The state party announced Sunday that Buttigieg had won 14 national convention delegates from what it said was a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses. Sanders received 12 delegates; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren won eight delegates; former Vice President Joe Biden secured six delegates; and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar won one delegate.
But while those results were based on the party’s revised results, the NBC News Decision Desk has not called the race for any candidate or issued its own delegate allocation after a series of delays and inconsistencies surfaced in the days following the caucuses.
The Sanders campaign says it wants the Iowa Democratic Party to recanvass 25 precincts and three satellite caucuses, arguing that there are errors in the data that could flip a national delegate to Sanders.
“Our volunteers and supporters worked too hard, and too many people participated for the first time to have the results depend on calculations that even the party admits are incorrect,” Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver said in a statement.
“Once the recanvass and a subsequent recount are completed in these precincts, we feel confident we will be awarded the extra national delegate our volunteers and grassroots donors earned.”
The Buttigieg campaign requested a recanvass in 66 precincts and the in-state satellite caucuses in what a campaign aide told NBC News was in direct response to Sanders’ request.
In a letter sent to Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, the Buttigieg campaign contends this recanvass would result in a net gain of 14 State Delegate Equivalents for Buttigieg. A campaign aide notes that the Sanders’ campaign recanvass request would at most result in a net gain of fewer than six SDEs.
9d ago / 9:04 PM UTC
New Hampshire leaders stay on the sidelines ahead of primary
WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary, the only member of Congress from the state who is endorsing a presidential candidate is Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster.
Kuster, who has represented New Hampshire’s second district since 2013, announced her endorsement of former South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, on January 15.
“With our country so consumed by division, @PeteButtigieg is the leader who can finally turn the page on the Trump presidency and bring our nation together,” Kuster tweeted that day. “He has the courage to break from the past to lead us to a better future — I’m excited to endorse him to be our next president.”
Buttigieg shortly after thanked Kuster for her backing, writing in a statement that amid a time of dysfunction in Washington, Kuster has united constituents and “spent her career delivering results for New Hampshire families.”
The congresswoman co-chairs the campaign and has hit the trail with Buttigieg.
No other national politicians from the state have yet to formally support a 2020 presidential candidacy for the first-in-the-nation primary. The Granite State’s lack of endorsements also stands in contrast with the number of Iowan endorsements issued ahead of last week’s caucuses.
Three out of four congressional districts in Iowa are represented by Democrats and all of them announced endorsements of 2020 Democrats prior to the February 3 caucus in the state.
Democratic Reps. Abby Finkaneur and Cindy Axne of IA-01 and IA-03 respectively endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in January. David Loebsack of the Hawkeye State’s second district endorsed Buttigieg the same month.
Ben Kamisar and Jeremia Kimelman
9d ago / 4:17 PM UTC
Sanders, Buttigieg raised more money online in N.H. than rest of Democratic field
WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg sit at the top of the polls in New Hampshire one day before the state’s primary. And new data shows they raised more money online from the state last year than the rest of the Democratic presidential field.
Sanders raised the most New Hampshire online dollars of any candidate in 2019 through the Democratic online-fundraising platform ActBlue. He raised $727,410 from Granite Staters through the platform, which handles virtually all online donations for Democratic candidates, an NBC News analysis shows.
Buttigieg finished 2019 in a clear second place for New Hampshire online donors, significantly behind Sanders but also well above his other competitors. He raised almost $510,370 through the platform.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised $344,600 through ActBlue from voters in her neighboring state, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden’s $253,380, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s $190,000 and businessman Andrew Yang’s 147,610.
That order — Sanders at the top, followed by Buttigieg then Warren then Biden then Klobuchar then Yang — mirrors the ActBlue fundraising results from Iowa. It’s also almost exactly how the candidates finished in the state’s caucus last week, according to the state Democratic Party’s results, with Sanders and Buttigieg locked in a virtual tie, followed by Warren, then Biden and Klobuchar.
However, Iowa’s results have been marred by concerns about accuracy and the NBC News Decision Desk has not called a winner or allocating any delegates as a result of the caucuses at this time.
ActBlue is the primary online fundraising tool that candidates use to accept donations. Fundraising totals through ActBlue don’t include offline donations, like checks sent to campaigns directly.
9d ago / 3:15 PM UTC
Klobuchar releases new ad ahead of New Hampshire primary
KEENE, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is making her final pitch to New Hampshire voters the day before the first-in-the-nation primary with the release ofa new closing ad airing on cable, digital and radio.
The ad, “Empathy,” includes excerpts of Klobuchar’s closing debate statement on the stage. The senator’s debate performance has widely been viewed as strong fueling additional interest in her candidacy and sparking significant fundraising totaling about $3 million.
“There is a complete lack of empathy in this guy in the White House right now, and I will bring that to you,” Klobuchar says in the new ad. “If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you, and I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your childcare or your long term care, I know you and I will fight for you. Please, New Hampshire, I would love your vote, and I would love the vote of America.”
It’s a message and sentiment Klobuchar often emulates on the campaign trail, especially in the final days while campaigning in the Granite State.
Recent polling has suggested Klobuchar is in or near third place in New Hampshire, a state where there are still many undecided voters and high independent and undeclared electorate counts.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Billionaire Tom Steyer will be skipping New Hampshire primary night to campaign in the more diverse early states of Nevada and South Carolina, his campaign confirms to NBC News.
In lieu of spending election day in the Granite State, he will kick off a bus tour in Reno, NV.
“Like he said on the debate stage, Democrats have to build a national, diverse coalition in order to defeat Donald Trump in November,” his spokesman Jake Lewis said in a statement. “So Tom stopped in Nevada the day after the Iowa caucuses and will be traveling to South Carolina today then on to Reno on the 11th for his bus tour across Nevada because these states are critically important to his strategy to build that broad coalition Democrats need to beat Donald Trump.”
His South Carolina trip had been previously announced but the campaign had not made his plans for Tuesday public until today.
Steyer spent the last five days in New Hampshire, but has only held 32 public events across seven trips to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
10d ago / 4:24 PM UTC
Sanders on his medical records: I ‘released as much’ as ‘any other candidate’
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack last year, said Sunday that his campaign has released “as much” medical information as other candidates.
Sanders argued on “Meet the Press” that his rigorous campaign schedule stands out among his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls as proof of his good health, but that once you start releasing medical records, “it never ends.”
“We have released as much documentation, I think, as any other candidate,” Sanders said.
“You can start releasing medical records, it never ends. We have released a substantive part.”
He added that his doctors have confirmed “that I am in good health. I am in good health.”
Sanders had previously told reporters last September that releasing medical records is “the right thing to do.”
“The American people have the right to know whether the person they’re going to be voting for president is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries, certainly before the first votes are cast,” he said at the time.
The Vermont senator released three letters from doctors at the end of last year, which concluded he was “more than fit enough” to be president. The letters included some test results as well as more explanation of Sanders’ heart attack and his recovery.
Amanda Golden and Melissa Holzberg
11d ago / 7:45 PM UTC
Klobuchar campaign announces it’s raised $2 million after debate performance
DURHAM, N.H. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is capitalizing on a strong performance in Friday night’s Democratic debate. According to the campaign on Saturday, Klobuchar has raised $2 million since the debate ended. The campaign said that this is the best fundraising haul for the team after any of the debates.
“With proven grassroots support, Amy continues to outperform expectations and punch above her weight,” Klobuchar’s campaign manager Justin Buoen said in a statement. “Following her debate performance, we’ve raised $2 million and have seen an outpouring of donations from all 50 states which will allow us to compete in New Hampshire and beyond.”
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At an event in Durham, N.H. on Saturday, Klobuchar leaned into her debate performance telling rally-goers that it’s important to her to get to know the voters in each state.
“I had an opportunity last night to address the people of New Hampshire. I think that I was the one that mentioned New Hampshire the most,” Klobuchar said. “Maybe that is because I realize there’s a primary coming up, and I also think it is part of being a good president and being a good elected official. That you represent the people that you see and you get to know the issues and what matters to them. That is what driven me so much in my work in public service.”
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign released an aggressive new video against former Pete Buttigieg on Saturday, contrasting his record on major national issues with the smaller-scale accomplishments of the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.
The video follows Biden’s remarks at the Democratic debate on Friday and on the campaign trail where he has said it’s a risk for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who’s only elected experience is mayor of a small city. On Saturday, he noted that South Bend’s population is smaller than Manchester — New Hampshire’s largest city.
The campaign’s new attack video says that while Biden helped pass the Affordable Care Act and the 2009 stimulus bill, Buttigieg “installed decorative lights under bridges giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers,” and “revitalized the sidewalks of downtown South Bend by laying out decorative brick.”
The video also more seriously targets Buttigieg for firing the city’s first African American police chief.
Following the video’s online debut, Biden hit Buttigieg directly at a rallying event in Manchester. He told the crowd that for as much as Buttigieg touts how Democrats tend to pick new, underdog candidates as their nominee, he fails to mention that every nominee has won based on support from the African American community in which Buttigieg lacks support.
Buttigieg campaign spokesperson Chris Meagher responded to the ad, saying, “while Washington politics trivializes what goes on in communities like South Bend, South Bend residents who now have better jobs, rising income, and new life in their city don’t think their lives are a Washington politician’s punchline.“
“The vice president’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran,” Meaher said.
Julia Jester and Amanda Golden
12d ago / 10:00 PM UTC
New Hampshire officials anticipate high turnout, clean reporting for election
MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire’s chief election’s officer, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, says he is anticipating a record turnout on Tuesday’s primary, predicting there will be 420,000 ballots cast, including 292,000 cast specifically in the Democratic primary.
“This would be the most votes cast in a presidential primary when an incumbent is running for re-election,” a statement from Gardner’s office said.
Not only could this be the highest turnout election that Gardner has seen, it will also be the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, and state officials are working to ensure that it goes off without a hitch.
Gardner, Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald were among state officials who tried to assuage concerns that Tuesday’s primary will have any of the chaos that consumed the Iowa caucuses. Sununu pointed to the integrity of the paper ballots during the press conference.
“When our citizens cast their ballot, they know their vote will be counted correctly with integrity, and on time,” Sununu said.
N.H. officials are also putting into place several security mechanisms to assure the public of that integrity: there will be an Election Day hotline staffed with a team of attorneys ready to respond to issues, and every town will be visited by a polling place inspector from the Department of Justice, including midnight voting towns which is a new addition this year.
“This is not a 100 year tradition as much as I think we see it as 100 year responsibility of getting it right,” Sununu said, applauding state officials for ensuring transparency and reliability in the process for years and even decades. “Not just the state, but the nation and even the eyes of the world do look upon New Hampshire and trust New Hampshire to lead the nation to get it right every single time.”
The primary’s results are expected to be known around 9:30 p.m. on election night, according to Gardner. At each location, moderators will read the ballot results out loud, the county’s clerk will write down the results and return envelopes to one of 36 counting locations statewide. At 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, officers will pick up the envelopes and deliver them directly to the Secretary of State’s office by 7 a.m.
Given inconsistencies in the Iowa caucuses surrounding an app that was used, officials assured that optical scanner devices used to count ballots are not connected to the internet, and instead rely on manually secured memory cards, an issue that Gardner says distinguishes New Hampshire from Iowa.
“We don’t have apps that deal with voting or tallying the votes,” Gardner said.
And as to why teams of attorneys may be needed, MacDonald said it is so issues can be resolved “collaboratively.”
“To the extent that any issues do arise on election day — it has been our experience that they can be resolved cooperatively, collaboratively working with local election officials,” MacDonald said.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said he is fully confident that Tuesday’s primary will be done and counted cleanly.
“We’ve had 100 years without an issue,” Buckley said. “We have 100 percent confidence our local election officials along with our state officials will make sure everything runs perfectly.”
12d ago / 6:54 PM UTC
Sanders hits Buttigieg for billionaire support ahead of New Hampshire primary
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., went after Pete Buttigieg Friday for the former South Bend mayor’s support from big-money donors at the final New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” event of the cycle.
Sanders singled out Buttigieg and billionaire candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg in the same breath while speaking to the crowd at Saint Anselm College, reading a series of newspaper headlines like Forbes’ “Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors than any Democrat” and The Hill’s “Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list,” among others.
“I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy,” Sanders said to awkward laughs in the room. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life.”
Sanders also mused about a general election against President Trump, saying that he has read that “some of his advisors tell him that I will be the toughest candidate for him to run against.”
The senator faced the reality that turnout in Iowa — where he and Buttigieg remain essentially tied amid questions about the accuracy of the vote count — was not what his campaign had hoped for but pointed out some positives.
“The Iowa caucus is behind us and while the voter turnout is not as high as I would have liked, you know what did happen? We saw a 30 percent increase in young people under 29 voting,” Sanders said. “If we’re gonna defeat Trump, we need a huge increase in young people’s participation in the political process.”
He added that his campaign needs to reach out to “some of Trump’s working class supporters and make it clear that they understand the fraud that he is.”
Sanders was asked about criticism that his candidacy is similar to that of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing candidate who lost badly in last month’s elections there, and whether he was concerned that could foreshadow what happens in the United States in 2020.
Sanders responded that while Trump will be a difficult opponent to run against, he believes that having the largest voter turnout in history will be key for Democrats.
“I think we are the candidate,” Sanders added. “We are a multi-generational, multi-racial campaign that has the capability of reaching out to communities all across this country, bringing them into the political process to defeat Trump.”
The New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” is sponsored by companies such as Comcast, Bank of America and Eversource Energy — in other words, the entities Sanders consistently attacks.
The room’s walls were plastered with the groups’ signage and many audience members present work for the companies. This was not a typical crowd for a Sanders event. Instead of the usual chants of “Bernie, Bernie!,” Sanders was met with polite applause.
Sanders and Buttigieg will both attend ABC News’ presidential debate tonight.
-Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.
12d ago / 6:22 PM UTC
Democratic group says congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down-ballot
WASHINGTON — Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on helping the party win control of state legislatures, is warning that Democrats’ congressional fundraising dominance isn’t trickling down to key state legislative races.
Although congressional Democrats “have been clobbering their Republican opponents,” candidates further down the ballot are struggling.
Data from other groups support these claims.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which aims to reclaim the chamber majority, brought in $60 million in 2019 and reported record-breaking numbers surpassing the GOP in the fourth quarter of 2019.
On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $125 million in 2019 — $40 million more than its GOP rival organization. About three quarters of that cash came from moderate Democrats’ campaigns in Trump districts.
That’s not the case in state legislative races even in Arizona, Florida, and Texas, which are in the national spotlight as 2020 congressional and presidential candidates focus on the states.
In Florida, Republicans outpaced Democrats in the fourth quarter by a whopping six-to-one margin in areas Democrats hope to pick up. In 2019, Republicans raised over $3.5 million across Florida House targets while Democrats gained only half a million.
The GOP more than doubled Democrats’ earnings in key State House races in Texas, raking in over $2 million last year.
In Arizona, where both the State House and State Senate are up for grabs, Democrats only raised 38 percent of the GOP’s haul in target races — about $650 thousand compared to $1.7 million in 2019.
Forward Majority says that the discrepancy between Democratic fundraising at the national level versus the state level has led to different election outcomes, pointing to 2018 results as proof.
The PAC launched a $10 million initiative, “Roadmap 2020,” in January to transfer power from Republicans to Democrats in the three competitive sunbelt states plus North Carolina.
2020 pick-ups are particularly important for state Democrats because the congressional redistricting process, a responsibility of state legislatures, begins in 2021 following the release of this year’s census.
Forward Majority’s communications director, Ben Wexler-Waite told NBC News Wednesday that the PAC will spend “where we believe establishing legislative majorities will upend Republicans’ ability to rig the national electoral playing field.”
States like Texas and Florida, Wexler-Waite said, matter for redistricting because they’re gerrymandered and set to gain new congressional seats after the census. The next redistricting process begins in about a decade.
“At this critical moment in history, it’s never been more important for Democrats to fight back,” the spokesman noted.
Pieter Brower, a regional press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) — the official organization dedicated to electing Democrats to state legislatures — told NBC News Thursday that it’s not surprising that Republicans are ahead in fundraising though his group is making strides for Democrats.
“It’s no secret that Republicans have deep-pocketed donors at their disposal,” Brower said. “Looking at a tough district and deciding that there’s no way we can win becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“We’re going on complete offense this year,” he added.