WASHINGTON, DC – Today during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, questioned the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz on the recent reversal of the decision to fire former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in 2018 for lacking candor under oath about leaking sensitive information regarding the Clinton Foundation investigation. Last week, the Department of Justice reversed the decision and settled a lawsuit with Mr. McCabe, restoring his employment as a voluntary separation and also restoring his pension.
IG Horowitz, who was appointed by President Obama, highlighted the importance of holding federal officials accountable at all levels of the government and stressed that the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) stands by its findings that led to Mr. McCabe’s firing. Portman discussed how investigations like this underscore the need for his upcoming bipartisan IG Independence and Empowerment Act which will bolster protections for IGs. The upcoming legislation will build upon Portman’s bipartisan Securing Inspector General Independence Act, which was introduced earlier this year, to strengthen a 2008 Inspector General protection law that has been routinely flouted by successive administrations from both political parties.
A transcript of the exchange can be found below and a video can be found here.
Portman: “It’s incredibly important that you all have independence, and we rely on you to conduct some of the most sensitive and important investigations in government because we believe you are uniquely qualified to be able to do it. I mentioned earlier, you’ve got the expertise, you’ve also got the nonpartisanship, and IGs need to be beyond reproach. I’m going to ask a few questions about one such sensitive and important investigation by your office, Mr. Horowitz, and this is a sensitive topic, I know, but I think it’s one that’s important for us to talk about today, as we have the leadership of the IG community before us. That’s about the investigation of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Mr. McCabe, as you know, was fired for lacking candor under oath in 2018, shortly before his retirement. Late last week, DOJ reversed course, settling a lawsuit by Mr. McCabe to restore his employment as a voluntary separation and to restore his pension. Mr. Horowitz, could you briefly remind us of the findings of your report regarding Mr. McCabe?”
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz: “Certainly, Senator. The report concerned an investigation that actually the FBI had initially undertaken involving alleged leaks about information that was potentially damaging to Secretary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. The FBI internal investigators developed information that they believed, led them to believe that Deputy Director McCabe may have lied to them. They then referred the matter to us, given the position he held at the FBI. We assumed the investigation and concluded in a public report that remains on our website and the public can see that Mr. McCabe lied both under oath and not under oath on several occasions when he denied at various points certain key facts and information, including who was the source of the leak.”
Portman: “It’s my understanding that following that report, which sounds like it was a pretty definitive report, the top career official at the Department of Justice as well as the career head of the Office of Professional Management, Professional Responsibility at DOJ both recommended that Mr. McCabe be fired. Is that correct?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “That’s certainly correct. I know as to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility head who, as you indicated, is a career employee and actually is a former prosecutor. They adjudicate in the first instance our findings. So our report goes to them. They decide whether they agree with us. They agreed with us on almost all, but actually not all of our findings. So they made their own independent call that, in fact, he lied on multiple occasions, but they didn’t fully find everything we found. They then sent it to – because of Deputy Director McCabe’s position, there’s a different process for him – it went to the Attorney General for review, then Attorney General Sessions. And my understanding is, and this I don’t have complete insight into, but my understanding is that the Attorney General asked a career official in the Office of the Deputy General to handle the review, and that that person recommended removal as well.”
Portman: “So the senior career person agreed with your finding that the removal was appropriate, that there should be a firing. Is that consistent with how the Department of Justice and the Office of Professional Responsibility has handled these sorts of cases in the past?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “That’s my understanding as well.”
Portman: “Okay. And was your report influenced by President Trump or anyone in the Trump administration? Any political considerations?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “Absolutely none.”
Portman: “And did the settlement change any of the findings in your report?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “It did not. We actually were not sued by Mr. McCabe, so we were not a party to the settlement. Our findings remain on our website. We stand by our findings. The public can read them. They can go to our website. And by the way, the FBI issued a statement stating that they stand by their findings as well of their OPR and their conclusions.”
Portman: “So how did this happen? And what kind of message does this send to FBI agents that a former Deputy Director was not held accountable for misrepresenting facts under oath?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “Well, look, I think as an IG that it’s critical that individuals be held accountable for the wrongdoing, no matter what level they’re at in an organization and that it’s particularly incumbent upon us to hold accountable senior officials at the same way we hold accountable less senior officials and newer officials.”
Portman: “Do you view this as a double standard, Mr. Horowitz?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “I can’t speak to, Senator, the decision of the Department and what evidence they saw on the adjudication. So I’m not going to speak specifically to why they settled or how they settled because I was not a party to that settlement. But it’s very important. And this is why I think the FBI issued their statement as well. It’s very important for employees to understand that we will hold them at the OIG accountable regardless of their position or standing.”
Portman: “Mr. Horowitz, you were appointed by President Obama, is that correct?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “That’s correct.”
Portman: “How important is your independence as an IG to your ability to make comments like the ones you just made today?”
Inspector General Horowitz: “It’s central to what we do. In other countries, people in my position can’t do that for fear of being fired, removed, or, frankly, even things worse happening. I have an opportunity to meet as CIGIE chair or had an opportunity to meet as CIGIE Chair with delegations from foreign countries. And it struck me how many times those officials wanted to know what we did and how we did it because in their countries, they might get killed if they did the same kind of work we do.”
Portman: “Well this just goes, my time is expired, but it goes to the importance of the testimony you all are providing today, the legislation we’re considering and the interest in maintaining the independence of the IGs in our system of government. Thank you.”