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Acting FBI boss McCabe referred to justice watchdog for new investigation over potential conflicts in Russia case

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is demanding the Justice Department's Inspector General investigate whether acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe engaged in potential conflicts of interest during the Russia election investigation.

Grassley's request, sent Thursday night, follows new revelations that the nation's top cop is the subject of three federal inquires ranging from sexual discrimination to political conflicts of interest, all of which were ongoing during the FBI's probe into Russian election tampering that roiled the Trump administration.

The inspector general needs to investigate McCabe and the "FBI's handling of recent politically charged investigations," Grassley wrote. The inspector general has the authority to conduct criminal or administrative investigations into FBI andf Justice officials' conduct.

Photos disclosed earlier this week by Circa showed McCabe was engaged in political campaigning for his wife, Jill McCabe, who had an unsuccessful bid for Virginia State Senate in 2015. The Office of U.S. Special Counsel is now investigating McCabe's activities in his wife's campaign.

The photos in question were posted on social media and show him wearing T-shirts supporting his wife at public events. Documents also show his official FBI biography was used to set up a meeting with Virginia Gov Terry McAuliffe before the Virginia governor supported Jill McCabe's campaign with $500,000.

The Hatch Act prohibits FBI employees from engaging "in political activity in concert with a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group" but are much stricter for FBI and intelligence employees. Mccabe has said he sought ethics experts' advice about his wife's campaign.

At the time of the meeting with McAuliffe, McCabe was "working the FBIs investigation into Clinton's mishandling of classified information and use of a private email server for State Department business," Grassley's letter states. The Clintons are longtime friends of McAuliffe.

The Chairman is also asking the Inspector General to investigate the ongoing sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by former FBI Special Agent Robyn Gritz, which named McCabe and other FBI officials, who she accused of impeding her work within the bureau.

Gritz's complaint was supported by then former Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn, who went on to become President Trump's National Security Advisor, was subsequently fired after highly classified information regarding a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked to the media.

Flynn's name was captured by federal law enforcement during his phone conversations with Kislyac, but those conversations are considered classified as part of the then ongoing Russia investigation.

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Grassley said he was concerned that McCabe would preside over an investigation about Flynn when Flynn was a potentially hostile witnesses against McCabe and the FBI in an unrelated case.

"Despite Flynn’s role in the open complaint against McCabe, McCabe still worked on the FBI’s investigation into Flynn’s communications with Russian officials," Grassley said in the letter. "Under Justice Department protocol, employees are advised to recuse from investigations if their involvement would create even the appearance of conflict. The Justice Department Inspector General is reviewing actions by the FBI and Justice Department in the lead up to the 2016 election, including whether McCabe should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters."

Earlier this week, Grassley sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to head the probe into Russian election tampering. The letter outlined the various investigations into McCabe and the concerns regarding his potential conflicts of interest. The letter to Rosenstein cited two Circa reports, which revealed the sexual discrimination law suit and the possible Hatch Act violations.

Follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC

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