Republicans raised questions Monday about a news report showing that a state Senate candidate who was funded in part by Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee is the wife of a senior FBI official who later helped supervise the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email use.
McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton supporter and friend, called the story part of the presidential “silly season” and criticized the Wall Street Journal, which reported that his PAC gave nearly $500,000 to Dr. Jill McCabe in her unsuccessful run last year against Republican Sen. Dick Black of Loudoun County. The race was one of several in which McAuliffe made a push as he tried to help Democrats retake the Senate.
The Journal report quoted an FBI statement saying that McCabe’s husband, Andrew McCabe, “played no role” in his wife’s campaign and was promoted to deputy director of the FBI after the campaign “where, in that position, he assumed for the first time, an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails.”
“If you actually read the whole article, I’m almost embarrassed for the reporter,” McAuliffe said. “I supported Jill McCabe because she was the best candidate to be a state senator, plain and simple. ... Most journalists would have not written the story.”
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam called McCabe in February 2015 to try to recruit her to run, said McAuliffe and Northam chief of staff Clark Mercer. McAuliffe said he met the McCabes on March 7, 2015. Jill McCabe announced her candidacy five days later.
The New York Times reported March 2, 2015, on Hillary Clinton’s private email server as secretary of state. In July of this year, FBI Director James Comey announced Clinton would not be charged.
The Journal story brought strong reaction from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and from Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who called McAuliffe’s PAC payments to McCabe’s campaign “a down payment to influence the FBI’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.”
“It’s important to remember that Terry McAuliffe cleared the field for Dr. McCabe – a political neophyte who had never run for office before,” John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in a statement.
“Terry McAuliffe is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them. Given the chance to put a few favors in the bank at the FBI for Clinton Inc., Governor McAuliffe jumped at the chance. The fact that both he and Hillary Clinton fell under FBI investigation proves just what a wise investment this was.”
McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was co-chairman of Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.
Black said he only learned a few days ago that Andrew McCabe was involved in the Clinton email investigation, and that it created “an appearance of impropriety” at the FBI.
“He was rapidly elevated in the course of the campaign while his wife was running,” Black said of Andrew McCabe. “He was clearly a guy who was heavily indebted to the closest adviser of Hillary Clinton.”
Before Jill McCabe announced her run against Black, another Democrat, Tom Mulrine, already was running. He stepped aside to make way for her.
Black said he and his campaign staff “were always intrigued by the way that Jill McCabe came to be the candidate. She was believed by some in the Democratic Party to perhaps have been a Republican.”
One Loudoun Democratic Party operative lamented on Facebook the “Richmond interference” in the race because Mulrine was already running, according to a screenshot provided by Black.
Mulrine, a past president of the Loudoun Bar Association and a Democratic activist, said Monday he’s a moderate who thought he could beat Black by matching his Vietnam-veteran resume, focusing on rural development in western Loudoun and offering himself as an alternative to Black’s conservatism.
When he and other Democrats found out McCabe was running, they hadn’t even heard of her, he said. The county Democratic chairwoman checked the party’s database and saw McCabe recently had cast a vote in a GOP primary, he said.
But it was clear the Democratic Party had chosen.
Mulrine met with Sen. Dave Mardsen of Fairfax County, who told him the party would be funding McCabe.
Mulrine felt like “if you ain’t got the money, you ain’t going to get too far. And that hurt. That’s the part that hurt. Because to this day I think I could have beaten Dick Black.”
After announcing her run, McCabe filed the required conflict-of-interest form with the state. On a line where candidates must list any employer who pays more than $5,000 annually to themselves or an immediate family member, however, she listed only her employers, and not her husband’s, according to a copy of the form obtained Monday from the clerk of the Senate.
Black was re-elected with just more than 52 percent of the vote, despite being outspent 2 to 1.
This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.