As a rule, we tend to think of U.S. attorneys general investigating those accused of possible felonies, not being investigated for committing possible felonies. But as we were reminded yesterday, Jeff Sessions is a special kind of attorney general.
Andrew McCabe, as the FBI’s deputy director, authorized an investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to Congress, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The investigation ended without criminal charges, according to Sessions’s lawyer, and was not known to Sessions last week when he made the decision to fire McCabe, according to a Justice Department official.
ABC News was first to report that McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told lawmakers about the probe in a closed-door meeting last year. The inquiry eventually went to special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In case anyone needs a refresher, we learned a year ago this month that during the 2016 campaign, Sessions, then an Alabama Republican senator, had meetings with Russian officials – for reasons that have never been altogether clear – which he failed to disclose during his Senate confirmation hearings.
As we discussed the other day, Sessions was specifically asked during sworn testimony about possible evidence tying members of Trump’s campaign team to the Russian government during Russia’s election attack. “I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions said, adding “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Sessions did, however, have communications with the Russians. Some Democratic senators urged the FBI to take a closer look, and we now know federal law enforcement did exactly that.
It’s worth emphasizing that the investigation, by all accounts, has run its course and Sessions is not facing any legal jeopardy over his controversial testimony. But that doesn’t make the story unimportant.
For one thing, the FBI examination was authorized by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – whom Sessions fired last week, less than two days before McCabe’s scheduled retirement. Those suggesting the ouster of the bureau’s deputy director was part of a political-retribution scheme now have a new data point to bolster their argument.
Indeed, Sessions fired McCabe in part for his reported lack of “candor,” which seems ironic given the attorney general’s suspect testimony.
What’s more, there’s just something amazing about the circumstances themselves. After all, an attorney general is the nation’s top law enforcement official, and it’s not at all normal for them to be investigated by the FBI for possible criminal wrongdoing.
But in Donald Trump’s administration, this has become alarmingly common, with several members of the president’s cabinet facing investigations of varying degrees of seriousness.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s actions have become the subject of more than one official investigation. There was also HHS Secretary Tom Price, who also under investigation, right up until the scandal forced his resignation.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under investigation. So is HUD Secretary Ben Carson. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was investigated for violating the Hatch Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been caught up in so many controversies, it’s been difficult to keep up with all of them. VA Secretary David Shulkin’s ethics mess may yet cost him his job. Now we know Jeff Sessions faced FBI scrutiny.
And, of course, the president himself appears to be the subject of an obstruction-of-justice probe.
This would be a stunning total for an administration in its eighth year. Team Trump has only been in office for 14 months.