Cruz asked the former FBI director if Comey had authorized him to leak information about the investigation into the Clinton Foundation to the press.
“I didn't need James Comey's authorization,” McCabe responded during the Senate’s months-long probe into “Crossfire Hurricane,” which was the code name of the FBI's investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated or colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“I didn't ask if you needed it. I asked did he authorize you to disclose it. That’s a yes or no question,” Cruz pressed. McCabe said that he himself had authorized the disclosure.
Cruz continued to press until McCabe admitted that Comey did know about the passing of information to the press.
“Did he authorize you?” the Texas Republican asked. “I didn't ask Jim Comey,” McCabe responded.
“I’m not asking if you asked,” Cruz said, before pointing to a report in which McCabe insisted he’d told his boss Comey that he’d authorized a disclosure about the Clinton investigation.
“You’re aware your testimony is 180 degrees opposite from Mr. Comey's sworn testimony to this committee in which he insisted he has never authorized anybody to leak to the press?” Cruz asked.
“Your characterization of a leak is not accurate,” McCabe replied.
McCabe was in a leadership position at the FBI when the bureau opened the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation.
“We did not open a case because we intended to stage a coup or overthrow the government,” McCabe had said in his opening statement. “We opened a case to find out how the Russians might be undermining our elections.”
In 2018, the Justice Department inspector general’s report faulted McCabe for leaking information to then-Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett for an Oct. 30, 2016, story titled “FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe.” The story, written just days before the presidential election, focused on the FBI announcing the reopening of the Clinton investigation after finding thousands of her emails on a laptop belonging to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was then married to Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
The Journal's account of the call said a senior Justice Department official expressed displeasure to McCabe that FBI agents were still looking into the Clinton Foundation, and that McCabe had defended the agent's authority to pursue the issue.
That leak confirmed the existence of the probe, the report said, which then-FBI Director James Comey had up to that point refused to do.
The report said McCabe "lacked candor" in a conversation with Comey when he said he had not authorized the disclosure and didn't know who had done so. The IG also found that he lacked candor when questioned by FBI agents on multiple occasions since that conversation.
McCabe served at the FBI for 21 years. He became the acting director in May 2017 after President Trump fired Comey.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe in March 2018 after the inspector general found he had repeatedly misstated his involvement in the leak to The Journal regarding an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
Throughout the investigation, McCabe denied any wrongdoing and said the inspector general’s conclusions relied on mischaracterizations and omissions, including information favorable to McCabe.
In February, the Justice Department said it would not pursue criminal charges against McCabe after the nearly two-year investigation into accusations included in the inspector general’s report.
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.