By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sent emails to then-Director James Comey alerting him he planned to push back against negative news coverage related to his oversight of probes into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a lawyer for McCabe said on Friday.
In an interview with reporters, Michael Bromwich said the emails could help clear McCabe of allegations by the Justice Department's internal watchdog that McCabe "lacked candor" with Comey by misleading him into thinking McCabe did not authorize disclosures to a newspaper to combat articles about his wife's political campaign and his role in overseeing an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
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Those Oct. 21 and 23 emails, Bromwich said, were "specifically alerting Director Comey to the fact that a Wall Street Journal reporter was asking around about Dr. McCabe's political campaign and that McCabe was going to be working with people in the bureau to push back on the story and help shape the story."
Bromwich's comments put McCabe and Comey - two former FBI officials who both say they were fired improperly amid efforts by President Donald Trump to obstruct an investigation into Russia's alleged interference the 2016 U.S. presidential election - at odds with one another. Russia has denied meddling in the election, which pitted Republican Trump against Democrat Clinton.
Comey, who is in the middle of a media blitz to promote his new book, "A Higher Loyalty," has said he did not recall McCabe discussing with him that he had authorized the disclosures, which became the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general.
The inspector general's report found McCabe lacked candor regarding his role leaking the information, and that those disclosures improperly revealed the existence of a nonpublic investigation.
The matter has since been sent to federal prosecutors so they can weigh whether to bring charges.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month used the report as a basis for firing McCabe, less than two days before he could retire with full benefits. He is now without healthcare, and is still waiting to learn how it will affect his pension.
Bromwich stressed that McCabe and Comey had an "excellent relationship" and that McCabe is by no means trying to suggest that Comey is lying.
However, he said, people are "fallible," memories are imperfect at times, and McCabe "strongly believes" he told Comey.
Bromwich added that his firm, along with the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, are considering filing civil claims on McCabe's behalf that could include wrongful termination, defamation and constitutional due process issues.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Jonathan Oatis)