by James A. Bacon
So, what do we make of the front-page revelation in today’s Wall Street Journal that Governor Terry McAuliffe, a long-time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave $475,000 through his Common Good VA PAC to Jill McCabe, a Democratic candidate in 20015 for a Northern Virginia state senate seat, who … was married to Andrew McCabe, then the chief of the FBI’s Washington field office… who later ran the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal?
Trust me, I am not one to minimize the significance of the Clinton email scandal. I believe that former Secretary Clinton set up a personal email server to avoid public scrutiny of the tangled conflicts engendered by the Clinton Foundation and her state department service, that she put national security at risk by transmitting classified documents over that server, that her communications were likely hacked by foreign intelligence services, that she obstructed justice by deleting the infamous 30,000+ “private” emails, and that she should have been prosecuted on multiple accounts. Her actions, lying and cover-up disqualify her from the presidency every bit as much as Donald Trump’s history of predatory groping, kissing and sexual advances disqualify him. (Yes, I am totally disgusted with the choices we have for president this year.)
However, as much as it would satisfy me to see confirmation of my jaundiced view of Clinton and her emails, I don’t think there’s much to the WSJ story. There certainly isn’t anything in the article that discredits McAuliffe.
Here are the facts presented. In a bid to regain Democratic control of the state senate, McAuliffe urged Jill McCabe, a hospital physician, to run against Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, for the 13th senatorial district. McAuliffe’s PAC contributed $475,000 to her campaign, and the Virginia Democratic Party kicked in another $208,000, accounting for about a third of all the funds she raised.
A spokesman for the governor said McAuliffe “supported Jill McCabe because he believes she would be a good state senator. This is a customary practice for Virginia governors. Any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous.”
McAuliffe met with Mr. and Mrs. McCabe on March 7, 2015 to urge her to run. That is the only time McAuliffe recalls ever meeting the FBI executive. As it happened, Clinton’s use of a private email server was just coming to public light in early March. The FBI announced its probe four months later.
The Journal article notes that Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign; he appeared in no events and participated in no fund-raising. He sought ethics advice from the bureau, and followed it, avoiding involvement with public correction cases in Virginia. At the end of 2015, Mr. McCabe was promoted to FBI headquarters, where he assumed the No. 3 position. In February 2016, he became the second-in-command to FBI Director James Comey. His supervision of the Clinton email case in 2016 was not seen as a conflict because his wife’s unsuccessful senatorial bid was over by then, and McAuliffe was not part of the probe.
The article provides no evidence whatsoever that McAuliffe tried to influence the outcome of the Clinton email investigation. It did note that McAuliffe has been under investigation for months by the FBI’s Washington field office for donations made on behalf of a Chinese businessman, possibly in violation of a law requiring people to register as agents of a foreign entity. Stated the Journal: “It was unclear the extent to which Mr. McCabe may have recused himself from discussions involving Mr. McAuliffe.”
Bacon’s bottom line: The article presents not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that McAuliffe backed Mrs. McCabe for any reason other than what he stated, which was to win a Democratic majority in the senate. Unless concrete evidence surfaces, any insinuation to the contrary cannot be taken seriously.
What the article does illustrate, however, is how inbred and incestuous Washington government and politics are. We can infer by Mrs. McCabe’s allegiance to the Democratic Party that Mr. McCabe likely is a Democrat as well — although even that cannot be assumed. (Politically mixed marriages do occur.) If it can be documented that Mr. McCabe is a Democrat, one might be justified in asking whether his partisan leanings had anything to do with his ascent through the Obama administration FBI or if they affected his oversight of the Clinton investigation. Those are not idle questions given the controversial decisions that someone in the FBI hierarchy made (a) to tightly limit the scope of the investigation and (b) to grant immunity agreements to five Clinton insiders, including Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. (Google “clinton email investigation fix” for more concerns.)
If the Journal had written an article focusing on the role Mr. McCabe played in the FBI’s questionable decisions, then it would have been reasonable to ask if he was motivated by partisan considerations. But the Journal didn’t write that article. It wrote an article that emphasized McAuliffe’s connection. And, based upon what we know, there just isn’t any “there” there.
Update: The Republican Party of Virginia is jumping on the story. “Today, at my direction, the Republican Party of Virginia is filing a Freedom of Information Act request with Governor McAuliffe’s office for any and all communications related to Dr. Jill McCabe’s 2015 campaign for state Senate,” said RPV Chairman John Whitbeck in a press release. “While the Governor’s PAC is not a public organization, we also call on Terry McAuliffe to release any and all emails to and from that organization related to Dr. McCabe’s campaign.”
Good luck with that.