Friday, March 16, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Friday night that he was firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a longtime and frequent target of President Donald Trump’s anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement date.
The move was made on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials and comes ahead of an inspector general report expected to conclude that McCabe had authorized the release of information to the news media and had not been forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability,” Sessions said in a statement.
In an extraordinary rebuttal released immediately after Sessions’ announcement, McCabe said his credibility had been attacked as “part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally.”
“It is part of this administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day,” he added, referring to Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. “Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel’s work.”
Though McCabe had spent more than 20 years as a career FBI official, and had played key roles in some of the bureau’s most recent significant investigations, Trump repeatedly condemned him over the last year as emblematic of an FBI leadership he contends is biased against his administration. The White House had said the firing decision was up to the Justice Department but seemed to signal this week that it would welcome the move.
The termination is symbolic to an extent, since McCabe had been on leave from the FBI since last January, when he abruptly left the deputy director position. But it comes just ahead of his planned retirement, on Sunday, and jeopardizes his ability to collect his full pension benefits upon his departure.
The firing arises from a wide-ranging inspector general review, initiated last year, into how the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation. That review focused not only on specific decisions made by FBI leadership during the probe, but also on media leaks.
McCabe came under particular scrutiny over an October 2016 news report that revealed differing approaches within the FBI and Justice Department over how aggressively the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. The watchdog office had concluded that McCabe had authorized FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for that story and that he had not been forthcoming with investigators about it, which McCabe strenuously denied.
In his statement, McCabe said he had the authority to share information with journalists through his public affairs office, a practice he said was common and done with the blessing of senior leadership. He said he had honestly answered questions about whom he had spoken to and when, and that when he thought his answers were misunderstood, contacted investigators again to correct them.