Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBIofficial Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a "lack of candor," McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe's previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move.
One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.
Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were informed of the probe during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News was told.
Jeff Sessions was under investigation, guys. "Was" being the operative word, however...
By then, Sessions had recused himself from the FBI’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, giving Rosenstein oversight of the growing effort.
Within weeks, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation and related inquiries, including the Sessions matter.
Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller's team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions.
"The Special Counsel's office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress," attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday.
According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate "all contacts" Sessions may have had with Russians, and "whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred."
It's unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions' interview with Mueller’s investigators. It's also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress – or others – since his confirmation.
Sessions is no longer being investigated for statements to Congress. That's what we do know. Whether or not he's being investigated for other matters since becoming AG, well...
Only Mueller knows. But Andrew McCabe was fired. That's a fact too. And less than a week after that happened, we have our first major leak involving McCabe where we only find out now that the FBI was investigating Trump's AG from the word go.