DAVID GREENE, HOST:
A former acting director of the FBI is offering his conclusion about the Russia investigation. Andrew McCabe says he'll leave the final details up to a special counsel, but he commented on the sheer amount of legal trouble for people surrounding President Trump.
ANDREW MCCABE: I don't know that we have ever seen, in all of history, an example of the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president and his campaign with our most serious, our existential international enemy, the government of Russia.
GREENE: Andrew McCabe has written a memoir called "The Threat." Elsewhere on today's program, he explains the reasons for his doubts about the president. He relays a story of the president dismissing American intelligence findings in favor of information he said he received from Russia's President Vladimir Putin. McCabe himself also faces an investigation, and Steve Inskeep asked him about that.
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: The acting director was investigated for approving disclosures to the media. He was fired hours before his retirement, and the investigation has continued. For this reason, McCabe is exceptionally careful about what he is willing to say. Here's one part of his long talk with two of us. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson and I sat with McCabe in our studios.
At what point did it become apparent to you that you were under investigation?
MCCABE: That's a really complicated question, Steve. And I'm afraid it's one that I'm not going to be able to answer for you because of the current legal matters that are still underway.
INSKEEP: You're not going to give me a date. I guess we can note there is an inspector general's report that said that in 2017, people within the bureau began asking questions of you about your interactions with the media, what disclosures of information you would authorize to The Wall Street Journal.
INSKEEP: What can you say about the questions you were asked and the answers you gave?
MCCABE: I have many things that I would like to say about the conclusions and the recommendations of the IG report. And I can't go through each one of those points with you today because of the current ongoing legal issues and the civil lawsuit that I will be bringing against the Department of Justice. But I will say this. I, at no time, ever intentionally misled the FBI Inspection Division, the Office of Inspector General or - ever - any director of the FBI - not ever. This is not an investigative report like any I have ever seen. An investigative report is a clear and unbiased presentation of all the evidence, and this is none of that.
INSKEEP: You think it was biased.
MCCABE: I do. I do.
INSKEEP: Why would it be biased against you?
MCCABE: I do. Well, I think that's pretty clear, Steve. I think the president has a long and well-established history of attacking the people who say things he doesn't like.
INSKEEP: But this was an independent inspector general, right?
MCCABE: It's supposed to be. It's supposed to be. I don't believe they were independent or fair in the process of this investigation or in its result.
INSKEEP: The essence of their case against you is that you had authorized information to be leaked to The Wall Street Journal. You were asked about it three times under oath and sometimes recorded. And the first two times, you either denied giving the information or gave the sense that you didn't know where the information had coming - or come from.
MCCABE: Yeah. And I - and Steve, it's a well-formed question but not one that I can answer because of the legal issues that I'm currently still handling.
INSKEEP: One more along those lines - you said, I never intentionally misled anyone. Do you, then, acknowledge that, without intent, you made statements that misled people?
MCCABE: I'm not acknowledging anything beyond what I've already told you.
INSKEEP: Carrie, go ahead.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: You spent your career at the Justice Department. You started out as an intern at the Justice Department.
MCCABE: I did.
JOHNSON: The Justice Department inspector general says you advanced your personal interests at the expense of justice department leadership. One FBI investigator is quoted in this report as saying he spent long nights and weekends trying to find the leaker who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. But it turned out it was you. As somebody who spent your life at the Justice Department, who loved the Justice Department, how do you respond to that?
MCCABE: I completely disagree with the conclusions in the assessments in that report. It's part, I think, of a larger strategy on the part of the president to save himself by attacking those people around him who present him with the truth that he does not like.
INSKEEP: You said you're going to sue.
MCCABE: I will.
INSKEEP: Who are you going to sue?
MCCABE: You'll see (laughter) when the lawsuit is filed. I don't want to get in front of that. And I'll let the complaint speak for itself.
JOHNSON: How much money did you lose when you were fired 26 hours before your pension was supposed to vest?
MCCABE: You know, it's a significant amount in terms of the benefits that you lose and the health insurance and all that stuff. And that's - you know, that's disappointing. I'll be fine. I have a terrific family, and they've always supported me a hundred percent. They still do to this day, and that's really what matters.
The thing that concerns me going forward is firing me 26 hours before my retirement sends an unbelievably chilling message to the rest of the men and women of the FBI. It sends a message that if you stand up for what you think is right and you do the right thing and you honor your obligations to this organization and the Constitution, that you, too, could be personally targeted. That concerns me far more than the loss of any retirement benefits.
INSKEEP: Having had this two-decade love affair - whatever it is - with the FBI, do you believe that you personally upheld the integrity at the highest standards of the FBI?
MCCABE: I do. That was certainly my intention. You know, I lived my life professionally and personally, privately under that - those incredibly lofty goals of fidelity, bravery and integrity. And that is a great thing to do no matter how it turns out. And if you find yourself in a position like deputy director of the FBI, you may be called upon to make a really hard decision. And it could be one that impacts you personally very negatively, but it's still the right thing to do. And if you're not prepared to do that right thing, then you shouldn't be in that job.
INSKEEP: Andrew McCabe, thanks so much.
MCCABE: Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Carrie.
INSKEEP: Andrew McCabe left the FBI at the start of 2018. His memoir also records his interactions with President Trump, and we hear that part of his story elsewhere in today's program.
(SOUNDBITE OF COMPOSITION, "KALEIDOSCOPE")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.