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Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday that he briefed congressional leaders about the counterintelligence investigation he had opened into President Donald Trump and that "no one objected."
"That's the important part here," McCabe told Savannah Guthrie, who had asked if he had informed the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan group of leaders on the Hill. "No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts."
The purpose of the briefing in 2017 was to let the congressional leadership, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan and their Democratic counterparts, know what the FBI was doing in the probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion by the Trump campaign, McCabe said.
"Opening a case of this nature (is) not something that an FBI director, not something that an acting FBI director would do by yourself, right?" he said. "This was a recommendation that came to me from my team. I reviewed it with our lawyers. I discussed it at length with the deputy attorney general, and I told Congress what we had done."
NBC News has reached out to the congressional leaders for comment on McCabe's remarks. As is typical of members when asked about classified briefings, several refused to comment, including McConnell, Ryan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and panel Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia.
Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017 after senior Justice Department officials concluded that he had mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. The move temporarily made McCabe the bureau's acting director.
In a televised interview days later, Trump told NBC News' Lester Holt that he’d been planning to fire Comey even before he received Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's recommendation to do so because "of this Russia thing with Trump."
In his "Today" interview, McCabe also said Trump's repeated public blasting of him has been "horrific" for him and his family.
"I can't tell you how horrific it's been to have to endure the threats, the taunts, the bullying of the president of the United States in such a public way," McCabe said. "I try not to take it personally, but it's very hard. It's been incredibly tough on my family."
The president has repeatedly attacked McCabe on Twitter after he interviewed with CBS's "60 Minutes." Trump called McCabe "a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax — a puppet for Leakin' James Comey."
Trump continued to tweet about McCabe all throughout the holiday weekend.
"Remember this, Andrew McCabe didn’t go to the bathroom without the approval of Leakin’ James Comey!" he posted Monday night.
Speaking with NBC about Trump's attacks on him, McCabe said, "I don't think really anybody takes those tweets by the president very seriously." He added that Trump has been "lying" about the former top FBI official and his family for years.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that donations made to McCabe's wife's Virginia state Senate campaign by close Clinton ally and then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe played a role in 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton not being charged by the FBI in the email probe.
The FBI, however, has reportedly said McCabe did not take on oversight of the Clinton email investigation until after his wife lost that race.
After McCabe's Tuesday interview, Trump tweeted that he "never said anything bad about Andrew McCabe’s wife other than she (they) should not have taken large amounts of campaign money from a Crooked Hillary source when Clinton was under investigation by the FBI."
"I never called his wife a loser to him (another McCabe made up lie)!" he added.
In his new book, "The Threat," which is out on Tuesday, McCabe describes a call he received from Trump shortly after Comey's firing in which McCabe says Trump brought up his wife's bid for Virginia state Senate. Details of that call were first reported by NBC News in January 2018.
Trump "said, 'How is your wife?' I said, 'She’s fine.' He said, 'When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?' I replied, 'I guess it’s tough to lose anything. But she’s rededicated herself to her career and her job and taking care of kids in the emergency room. That’s what she does,'" McCabe wrote.
"He replied in a tone that sounded like a sneer," McCabe continued. "He said, 'Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.'”
In that CBS interview, which aired in full on Sunday, McCabe said he ordered obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations into Trump after he fired Comey and said Rosenstein had discussed the possibility of removing Trump through the 25th Amendment in addition to wearing a wire during a future conversation with the president.
In a statement Thursday, the Justice Department disputed McCabe's assertions in the interview, calling his recollections "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
McCabe disputed the DOJ pushback in his Tuesday interview with NBC.
McCabe was ousted from the bureau last March, just prior to a planned retirement following a Justice Department inspector general's report that said he had misled investigators regarding a leak about the FBI's investigation of the Clinton Foundation, which he denies. The inspector general referred its findings to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia last year for possible prosecution, and prosecutors reportedly have convened a grand jury on the matter.
McCabe told CBS and NBC that he believed he was ousted because he further probed Trump. He added that the inspector general's report "was not like anything I have ever read before," saying it disagreed with its conclusions and planned to sue the Justice Department over it.