When the FBI launched an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, one of the bureau’s top former counterterrorism agents believed that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe would have to recuse himself from the investigation.
Former Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was one of the bureau’s top intelligence analysts and terrorism experts but resigned from the bureau five years ago after she said she was harassed and her career was blocked by top FBI management. She filed a formal sexual discrimination complaint against the bureau in 2013 and it was Flynn, among many others, who publicly came to her aide.
In her first on-camera interview she described the retaliation from McCabe and others in the bureau as “vicious.”
A 16-year veteran with outstanding work performance reviews and accomplishments, Gritz alleges McCabe, along with other senior management, made it impossible for her to do her job and obstructed her ability to move up the ranks.
She eventually filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint [EEOC] in 2013 for sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment against McCabe and other superiors. In 2012 she received the only negative review in her career with the FBI, and it was conducted by the same supervisor she had named in her EEOC.
She told Circa, current senior level management, including McCabe, created a “cancer like” bureaucracy striking fear into FBI agents and causing others to resign. She eventually resigned herself, but her case is still pending.
“They’ve poisoned the 7th floor,” said Gritz, referring to the actual floor where management is housed in the FBI’s Hoover Building. “There’s a cancer there of a group of people. You’ve seen it with some of the recent reports of leaks, conflicts of interest, you see it in my case. The level of integrity is lacking. I have never seen or heard of the amount of conflicts of interest, or leading by fear.”
McCabe, who is under three separate federal inquiries, did not respond to requests for comment.
Gritz, who at the time of her official complaint was on detail to the CIA, did not fight her battle alone. Many senior U.S. government officials who had worked with her throughout her career defended her openly. One of her biggest supporters was Flynn, who then was the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as first reported by Circa.
Earlier this year, a highly-classified phone conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked to the press, prompting his removal as top national security advisor for President Trump. The classified leak and the fact that McCabe plays a central role in the Russia investigation has left Gritz deeply concerned for Flynn.
Five years later she’s waiting for resolution to her pending case and now she believes that those who retaliated against her, including McCabe, may have also retaliated against Flynn for his unwavering support for her. Flynn gave a rare interview to NPR in 2015 defending Gritz against McCabe.
“When I heard Michael Flynn was being brought under investigation, I wondered if they would go after him,” said Gritz, recalling the letter Flynn wrote on his Department of Defense stationary. “I still believe McCabe should have recused himself from the investigation into Flynn.”
Flynn had worked with Gritz extensively during her tenure on joint terrorism related assignments between the DOD and FBI wrote a letter on Pentagon stationary testifying to her character and work ethic. Other top military officials also wrote letters of testimony on behalf of Gritz, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Gen. Keith Alexander and retired Navy Rear Admiral B. L. Losey, who served both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as the White House’s National Security Council Director for Combatting Terrorism, according to documents obtained by Circa.
The FBI’s attorney tried to block testimony from her supporters, including Flynn’s letter, in 2014, memos obtained by Circa show.
“They couldn’t block the testimony,” said Gritz, who smiled as she recalled the judge reprimanding the FBI for trying to block the testimony.
FBI agents’ concerns became more pronounced when a highly-classified piece of evidence -- an intercepted conversation between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak -- suddenly leaked to the news media and prompted Flynn’s resignation as Trump’s top security adviser.
“He thought what had been done to me was totally wrong at a time when we need counterterrorism expertise—to push out someone he considered a rising star was unacceptable.”
She said when FBI agents requested to write letters on her behalf they were stopped by their supervisors and coworkers who wanted to defend her were fearful.
“You could say my name, walking down the hall and if one of them hears it you’re in trouble,” she said, referencing McCabe and his close colleagues.
In June, a Circa investigation revealed that two weeks after Gritz filed her EEOC complaint, McCabe referred her for an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation for timecard irregularities.
Although the FBI claimed they had filed their OPR investigation prior to Gritz’s EEOC, McCabe’s own sworn testimony painted a much different picture. Gritz’s case, which is still pending, was required McCabe to submit to a sworn statement. In his testimony he recounted a conversation on June 19, 2012 in which he authorized the OPR investigation of Gritz after one of his deputies told him she was about to file a complaint, as reported by Circa.
And McCabe is also challenged with an Office of Special Counsel investigation.
The embattled former agent filed a complaint in April, alleging McCabe violated the Hatch Act, as reported by Circa in June.
The OSC is the government’s main whistle blower agency. 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." McCabe appeared to be participating in his wife’s unsuccessful bid for Virginia State Senate in 2015, according to Gritz and documents obtained by Circa.
The Justice Department Inspector General investigation is also investigating McCabe after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, alleged McCabe may not have properly disclosed the roughly $700,000 in campaign contributions to his Democratic wife on his ethics report and should have recused himself from the Clinton server case.
Gritz is hoping she will have resolution on her case soon but more importantly she said “I just want the bureau to get back to where it should be.”
As for McCabe, she said “I don’t feel that Andy McCabe was honest to me. The conflicts of interest many of agents see right away. A lot of agents, analysts, former, current, retired are appalled that if they did similar they would have already been fired or at least on leave without pay.”