Transcript: Andrew McCabe on "Face the Nation," March 10, 2019

McCabe "shocked" by Manafort sentence
McCabe "shocked" by Manafort sentence 06:50

The following is a transcript of the interview with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that aired Sunday, March 10, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He is the author of a new book, "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump." Good to have you here.

ANDREW MCCABE: Thanks so much for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start you off on some of the news of the week.

ANDREW McCABE: OK.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced this week. He will also face sentencing in a D.C. court in the days to come. He was given 47 months, far less than what is the sentencing guideline of up to--

ANDREW McCABE: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --20 plus years? Is the length of time he will serve matching the crimes he's being accused of?

ANDREW McCABE: Well I was really surprised by the sentence he was given. I think it's an incredibly lenient sentence in light not just of the- of the offenses he was convicted for but the additional offenses that he has pled guilty to in D.C. and the offenses he's acknowledged essentially, in the sentencing process in Virginia, that he is res- responsible for. So like most people I was shocked by how lenient the sentence was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it sounds like you're predicting that the D.C. court may add to those 47 months?

ANDREW McCABE: Well there's no question he's going to get additional time from D.C. I don't think it's probably the- the job of the D.C. courts to rectify a mistake or- or something that was done in another jurisdiction. I'm sure that Judge Jackson will approach her sentence with just keeping our eye on the facts of that case but there's no doubt he'll get additional time from that process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In your book "The Threat" you write about some of the president's public comments about Paul Manafort in particular and you frame it in one passage as possible witness tampering. You say you fear a judge will be influenced by some of the po- the president's comments. Did you have any sense that that's what happened here with Judge Ellis?

ANDREW McCABE: I don't. I don't. But the point that I try to make in the book is that-- it's to try to highlight how incredibly irresponsible and indeed corrosive statements like that from the chief executive are on the process and on the public's perception of the fairness and the effectiveness of the process. When the president engages in messaging like that people can't help but step back and ask themselves that question that you just asked, did that have an impact on the process or on the result in this case. We don't know the answer to that but it introduces a level of doubt and insecurity into a system that we all need to depend on- upon to being fair and free.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The charges that Paul Manafort faced were in regard to financial crimes. Do you believe that he was a Russian asset?

ANDREW McCABE: I don't know the answer to that. I think that Mr. Manafort extensive involvement with Ukrainian and Russian actors is highly suspicious. I think that that's something that we'll wait to see what the Mueller team opines on with their- with their final conclusion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the president seized on a comment made by Judge Ellis who seemed to be just pointing out that the Russian potential links were not actually part of the trial--

ANDREW McCABE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that we have seen underway here. So you're saying there the president's comments were not actually accurate.

ANDREW McCABE: Well that- that shouldn't be a surprise. I think that Judge Ellis was very careful to indicate that he was sentencing Mr. Manafort for the conduct that was before him. And he- Mr. Manafort was not charged in that case with being an agent for the government of Russia. So I think- I think Judge Ellis's efforts to be careful and tailor his words are far from an exoneration of Mr. Manafort on any other potential charges.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you as well about Michael Cohen the president's longtime attorney and we played in the open some of the tapes showing the changing stories here in regard to--

ANDREW McCABE: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  --whether there was discussion or not of a presidential pardon. Now it appears according to the president that it was discussed. As an investigator, what do you make of that?

ANDREW McCABE: Very, very hard to sort through a basically he said- he said argument between two people who have very challenged credibility. At the end of the day, the strength of Michael Cohen's testimony- potential testimony is derived not from what he's telling us now but rather from whatever facts and corroborative evidence the prosecutors are able to glean from that treasure trove of documents and recordings and other things that we've heard so much about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're saying, don't take him at his word, take him by the evidence he presents.

ANDREW McCABE: That's right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I- I want to ask you as well because of course the president constantly mentions the credibility that you have--

ANDREW McCABE: Sure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and calls that into question, specifically on the texts between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, which is something the president often comments on. You were asked about this on CNN by Anderson Cooper and you said you had no recollection of the meeting that was referred to in one of the text exchange between those two individuals which mentioned an insurance policy in case Trump got elected. Do you know why you were personally mentioned in those texts?

ANDREW McCABE: I don't. Lisa Page, Pete Strzok and I and many other members of that investigative team met in my office, in conference rooms around FBI headquarters all the time. Right? So it was a- it was a ve- intensive investigation that required a lot of attention and a lot of involvement. So I can't sit here and tell you years later the circumstances of exactly that instance that they seem to be referring to in that text. I also wasn't a participant in that text, so I can't add too much more to your understanding of it. I know that Peter has described in his own congressional testimony what he was referring to and I take him at his word for that description.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the- the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, has been on this program specifically referred to those texts and said that it is proof that you along with Strzok and Page showed political bias and a political agenda. And that's why he wants to call you before the committee to ask- to answer some questions. So one of the other texts there was a quote that said, "We need to open the case we've been waiting on now while Andy is acting." You, while you were acting FBI director. Do you know what case this is? Why would it matter that you were in that acting role?

ANDREW McCABE: Well again I- I can't tell you what Lisa and Pete were referring to in their private texts. I think I've been very clear publicly about how the investigators felt about the work that we needed to do in May of 2017 after Director Comey was fired, they made a recommendation to me that we open cases. I acted on that recommendation. I was feeling- I felt very strongly at that time that I needed to make those decisions quickly because I anticipated I would not be in the acting role for very long and I didn't know who would be coming in behind me or how they would handle the ongoing investigation that we thought was important to conclude.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much.

ANDREW McCABE: Sure.