Andrew McCabe’s Senate testimony on Crossfire Hurricane postponed

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The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed its hearing with Andrew McCabe after the fired FBI deputy director bailed on his scheduled appearance Tuesday, citing concerns about lawmakers contracting the coronavirus.

The panel, led by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has not set a new date, and it remains unclear whether McCabe’s testimony will be rescheduled prior to November’s election.

McCabe, who rose in the FBI ranks after joining the bureau in the mid-1990s and was a key member of the Trump-Russia investigation, sent a letter through his attorney, Michael Bromwich, to Graham on Saturday, saying that his client “will not appear” at the hearing on oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation because of “the manifest danger of doing so in the face of an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus among members of the Committee and its staff.” But the letter stressed that McCabe “is eager to testify voluntarily and in person at a future date when it is safe to do so.” Graham has been seeking testimony from McCabe, who, along with former FBI Director James Comey, pushed to include allegations from British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier in the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment and signed off on the final Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

Taylor Reidy, the Senate Judiciary Committee communications director, announced on Monday that “the McCabe hearing has been postponed.” Kevin Bishop, Graham’s communications director, said that “McCabe wants to appear in person, not virtually.” Neither immediately responded to the Washington Examiner’s question about whether Graham was working to reschedule the hearing before the upcoming election, in which President Trump is facing off against former Vice President Joe Biden. Graham, too, is up for reelection, facing a tough competitor in Democrat Jaime Harrison.

Two Senate Judiciary Committee members, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, recently tested positive for the coronavirus, as did Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who has been conducting his own review of the Russia investigation. Trump was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19.

Bromwich’s letter to Graham said that “from the outset, we established several conditions, one of which is that his testimony be provided in person rather than using Zoom or some other videoconferencing platform” because “a witness answering questions remotely via videoconference is at a distinct disadvantage in answering those questions.” McCabe’s attorney wrote that McCabe “is willing, able, and eager to testify in person about Crossfire Hurricane at any time in the future when it is safe to do so,” but he “is not willing to put his family’s health at risk to do so.”

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor who has testified before Congress dozens of times, including during the House impeachment proceedings against Trump last year, criticized McCabe’s reasoning.

“The basis for his refusal to appear remotely is utterly and almost comically absurd. It is hard to see the letter as anything other than a mocking refusal not to go under oath. McCabe knows that the Democrats may retake the Senate and the White House. At that point, Democratic senators are expected to shut down all continuing investigations related to McCabe and misconduct in the Russian investigation,” he said.

Comey testified before the committee last week via video conference.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed much of the Senate’s legislative business for two weeks following senators testing positive for the coronavirus, but a number of Senate committee hearings are still slated to continue. Graham’s office released a statement over the weekend stating that the Senate Judiciary Committee “will proceed with the consideration of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States on October 12, 2020.”

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report in 2018 detailing multiple instances in which McCabe “lacked candor” with Comey, FBI investigators, and inspector general investigators about his authorization to leak sensitive information to the Wall Street Journal that revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe in March 2018, just before he was set to retire.

The Justice Department declined to press charges against McCabe in February, and a federal judge ruled in September that McCabe’s wrongful termination lawsuit could move toward discovery.

Graham has said he is negotiating with fired FBI agent Peter Strzok to bring him in for a hearing and that he wants to hear from William Barnett, one of the FBI agents involved with the inquiry into retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who cast doubt on the Trump-Russia collusion theory. Graham also said he is open to having prosecutor Andrew Weissmann testify.

Comey, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates all told the committee this year they would not have signed off on the FISA warrants against Page if they knew then all the issues with them that were uncovered by the DOJ watchdog. Comey also denied the claim by Yates that he had “gone rogue” in authorizing the interview of Flynn in January 2017. Graham said in September that former special counsel Robert Mueller declined an invitation to testify.

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