Former FBI Director James Comey (aka participant “Z”) and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (likely participant “Y”) deliver responses to CNN about claims made by Overstock founder and former CEO Patrick Byrne.
Mr. Byrne claims he was recruited by FBI agents to conduct a counterintelligence operation and cultivate a relationship Russian national Maria Butina. [Full Backstory]
Mr. Byrne further alleged that top officials in the Obama administration, including James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bill Priestap and John Carlin were involved in various aspects of the overall operation; which included FBI requests to Byrne which were carried by FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok to lower level FBI agents.
According to the responses presented by CNN, James Comey and Andrew McCabe deny ever participating in instructions to Mr. Byrne to engage in a “romantic” relationship with Maria Butina:
(Via CNN) […] Reached Thursday evening by CNN, Comey called Byrne’s claim “ridiculous.” “The FBI doesn’t work that way,” Comey said.
Former FBI deputy director and CNN contributor Andrew McCabe said he hadn’t heard of Byrne until the former CEO revealed his relationship with Butina.
“His allegation that his potential cooperation with the FBI was somehow discussed at the highest levels certainly never happened when I was there,” McCabe, who held the No. 2 role at the agency beginning in 2016 until his firing in 2018, said Friday on CNN’s “New Day.”
McCabe said it was “certainly possible” that Byrne volunteered information about Butina to the FBI, but disputed the claim that agents would have told Byrne to “engage in a romantic relationship with a suspected Russian intelligence agent.”
“That is simply not the sort of thing that the FBI does,” McCabe said.
A US official told CNN on Thursday that Byrne met earlier this year with Justice Department officials and shared with them similar information about a romantic relationship with Butina encouraged by the FBI.
The US official said that the Justice Department officials Byrne met with found aspects of Byrne’s story to be believable in part because he shared operational details that were not widely known. (read more)
It is worth noting that both Comey and McCabe are only refuting their knowledge of any instruction to cultivate a “romantic relationship.” Neither McCabe nor Comey are actually denying the FBI counterintelligence operation using Byrne to manipulate Maria Butina.
As we noted in the review of Byrne’s allegations: the described FBI contact structure highlighted an arms-length operation; perhaps intentionally constructed to create plausible deniability for those above the directly instructing agents.
It would appear the carefully framed denials by Andrew McCabe and James Comey are structured to be as disingenuous as possible; thereby allowing room for confirmations to come out later, and still retaining their plausible deniability on specifics.