FBI officials took pains to hide three copies of “key” documents in the days after President Trump fired Director James Comey, according to a forthcoming book.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote about how Andrew McCabe, who had suddenly been thrust into the acting director role in May 2017, went about opening a criminal case into Trump for potential obstruction of justice.
“Given the wild pace of events, McCabe couldn’t be sure how long he’d last as director, so he wanted to lock down as much evidence as possible,” Toobin wrote in an expert of True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump published by CNN on Thursday.
“Most important, he told the investigating agents to place Comey’s memos in SENTINEL, the FBI’s case management software,” Toobin wrote. “McCabe knew that once documents were inside the system, they were virtually impossible to remove. With Comey’s memos in the system, the investigators were certain to have access to them — even if McCabe himself would eventually be gone.”
Comey’s memos were contemporaneous notes of his conversations with Trump. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz later released a report that harshly criticized Comey’s decision to remove his notes from the FBI after he was fired and to provide some contents to a friend to leak to the media in the hopes of sparking a special counsel inquiry, but the Justice Department declined to prosecute Comey over his handling of his memos.
The book said FBI officials went a step further than McCabe’s directions, fearing what Trump might do next.
“Once McCabe became director, Bureau employees grew so concerned that Trump would try to shut down the investigation that they secreted at least three copies of key documents, including Comey’s memos, in remote locations around the Bureau. This was to make sure that in the event Trump directed an end to these inquiries, the documents could always be preserved, located, and shared,” Toobin wrote.
The book goes on to describe how eight days after Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.