CBS’s 60 Minutes devoted 28.5 minutes on Sunday night to former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was fired from the Justice Department for lying to investigators about leaking to the newspapers. McCabe has penned the latest hot book for Trump-haters, called The Threat, and this interview looked like a long infomercial for St. Martin’s Press.
Did CBS’s Scott Pelley underline that McCabe was fired for lying? Pelley began with this illogical sentence in his introduction: “McCabe is a lifelong Republican who had a sterling 21-year career in the FBI.” Then he suggested he was fired for “allegedly lying to his own agents about a story he leaked to a newspaper.” So how is that a “sterling career”? It’s almost like asserting that Dan Rather had a sterling 44-year career at CBS News.
For conservatives, it sounded funny coming from Pelley, who uncorked on Trump when he was CBS Evening News anchor with sneering editorials like “It has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality.”
The viewer could sense this was a promotional forum for McCabe. On 12 occasions, McCabe spoke without a question being asked: Pelley would narrate into his statement. On another 13 occasions, Pelley's "questions" were statements, with no question mark. Pelley asked 22 questions, most of them bland softballs. They averaged less that 15 words each.
The second half of the interview clearly reported that McCabe’s wife ran for the Virginia state Senate as a Democrat (he didn't completely avoid aiding her campaign), and that he was fired for lying under oath. Pelley presented this with maximum empathy.
Pelley proclaimed "Dr. Jill McCabe, an emergency room pediatrician, dabbled briefly in politics back in 2015 when she ran for state office in Virginia." They showed a clip of President Trump stating (accurately) that she received $675,000 in donations through Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a powerful friend of the Clintons. Even the liberal site Slate suggested McCabe should have recused himself in 2015 and 2016. Slate noted the FBI probe into Hillary's emails started in July 2015, and the big money from McAuliffe came in October. The FBI insists McCabe didn't have "oversight" at that point. But try switching the parties, and imagine CBS buying that.
Pelley insisted "her husband's role in the Clinton e-mail investigation began months after she lost. But candidate Donald Trump seemed to conflate the two."
SCOTT PELLEY: How do you feel when you see that?
JILL McCABE: Sick. Sick to my stomach.
ANDREW McCABE: I think sickening is the right word. It's disgusting. To see the candidate for the presidency taking those lies and manipulating them for his own advantage, and then to hear, you know, the chants and the boos of thousands of people who are just accepting those lies at face value, it's chilling.
Then came the section on McCabe lying about his leaking. Pelley made excuses -- it was a "garden-variety leak," and let McCabe say he was "confused" and "distracted," not lying like a rug.
PELLEY: But if McCabe had navigated the crisis around President Trump, he would not survive a controversy involving Hillary Clinton. About a week before Election Day, McCabe authorized the leak of a story to The Wall Street Journal. At this time, he was still deputy director under Comey. The resulting story said that McCabe had defended the FBI investigating the Clinton Charitable Foundation after a Justice Department official had cast doubt on that investigation.
You are accused of providing information to a Wall Street Journal reporter because you thought the story the Journal was writing was going to be wrong. Do I have that right?
ANDREW MCCABE: That`s correct.
PELLEY: You are authorized by the FBI to release information to the media.
MCCABE: That's correct.
PELLEY: You did so through the public affairs office at the FBI.
MCCABE: I did.
PELLEY: The Journal attributed the story to an unnamed source. And it seemed like a garden-variety leak of the kind that happens nearly every day. But, according to a detailed investigation by the Justice Department inspector general, McCabe lied under oath three times when investigators asked if he was the source. And the inspector general concluded that McCabe leaked the story only to make himself look good, which would violate FBI regulations. McCabe says correcting a story that he believed would be in error was in the public interest. As for lying, McCabe told us that he was confused by the investigators' questions and distracted by the Comey crisis.
MCCABE: There's absolutely no reason for anyone and certainly not for me to misrepresent what happened. So, no. Did I ever intentionally mislead the people I spoke to? I did not. I had no reason to. And I did not.
PELLEY (voiceover): If the inspector general is right, about McCabe lying, this would be another Washington story of an embarrassing matter made lethal by a cover-up.
President Trump weighed in, tweeting, "FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. Ninety days to go?" [To McCabe] Did you expect to be fired 26 hours before you were able to collect your pension?
MCCABE: I guess, I should have because the President spoke about it publicly. He made it quite clear that he wanted me gone before I could retire. I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the President of the United States.
PELLEY: The President tweeted, "Andrew McCabe fired, a great day for the. FBI -- a great day for democracy."
MCCABE: The idea that this President would know what a great day for the FBI or a great day for democracy was is preposterous.
Why should people accept that McCabe has a "sterling" professional reputation but is easily confused by questions like "Did you leak to the Wall Street Journal?" Isn't that a Yes or No sort of thing?
The only moments McCabe faced any criticism were the brief recitation of the Inspector General finding and then statements from Trump,which were characterized as sickening.