(Fox News) – A top Clinton ally’s political organization gave nearly a half-million dollars to the campaign of the wife of an FBI official who would go on to help oversee the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email practices – a tangled web likely to fuel Republican complaints about the investigation.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Sunday night on the connection. According to the Journal, finance records show Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s PAC gave $467,500 to Dr. Jill McCabe’s 2015 state Senate campaign. The Virginia Democratic Party spent an additional $207,788 on the campaign, the Journal reported.
McCabe, who ended up losing to Republican incumbent Dick Black, is married to Andrew McCabe – the FBI’s deputy director.
At the time of the campaign and of McAuliffe’s support, McCabe was associate deputy director. He later was promoted to deputy after the campaign ended, assuming an oversight role in the Clinton email investigation.
McCabe apparently sought ethics guidance from the FBI and followed it, but his supervision of the email case was not seen as a potential conflict since Jill McCabe’s campaign was over and McAuliffe wasn’t directly involved in the email case.
The FBI’s “Ethics and Integrity Program” manual makes clear McCabe would have had to flag the connections to senior management, and the final decision would come in writing.
In the section prohibiting employees from participating in criminal investigations in certain cases where there’s a personal or political relationship, the manual says an exception would be if: “The employee’s participation would not create an appearance of a conflict of interest to affect the public perception of the integrity of the investigation or prosecution.”
The FBI, in a statement, confirmed that McCabe sought internal guidance “to prevent against any actual or potential conflict-of-interest” and when his wife chose to run, “McCabe and FBI lawyers implemented a system of recusal from all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics, a process followed for the remainder of her campaign. During the campaign, he played no role, attended no events, and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind.”
A law enforcement official, though, acknowledged an optics issue – given that while McCabe was barred from investigations into Virginia politics, the donation did come from the Virginia governor.
McAuliffe and other state figures reportedly recruited Dr. McCabe to run in the first place, but a spokesman pushed back on any suggestion of impropriety.
McAuliffe “supported Jill McCabe because he believed she would be a good state senator. This is a customary practice for Virginia governors… Any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous,” the spokesman told the Journal.
McCabe continues to be involved in the email investigation aftermath. He was recently asked to brief House oversight committee members on allegations – contained in newly released FBI files – that a State Department official offered a “quid pro quo” with the bureau in a bid to un-classify a particular server email.
The revelations in the Wall Street Journal report could dovetail with Donald Trump’s persistent claims that the Justice Department and FBI investigation into Clinton’s email use was compromised. Trump repeatedly has complained about Attorney General Loretta Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton on a Phoenix tarmac days before the FBI announced no charges in its Clinton investigation.
He tweeted out the Wall Street Journal story Sunday night.
Republican National Commitee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement the funding looked like a “down payment” to influence the FBI probe.
“Given all we know about how the corrupt Clinton machine operates, it’s hard not to see this as anything other than a down payment to influence the FBI’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server,” Priebus said.
According to the same report, the PAC and Virginia Democratic Party money amounted to more than a third of Dr. McCabe’s campaign funds. She also reportedly was the third-largest recipient of the governor’s Common Good VA funds.