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‘America needs you’: sacked FBI chief James Comey sends heartfelt message to former colleagues as Andrew McCabe resigns

White House spokeswoman insists the US president was not part of the decision-making process that resulted in the deputy director stepping down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 10:37pm

Sacked FBI director James Comey sent a heartfelt message to his former colleagues at the federal bureau on Monday following the premature resignation of deputy chief Andrew McCabe.

According to a government source, McCabe confirmed he is stepping down late on Monday after President Donald Trump accused him of being a Democratic partisan. He is stopping work immediately but will remain on the FBI payroll until March to obtain retirement benefits, the source confirmed.

The New York Times reported that McCabe, 49, had hoped to stay active in his position up to his retirement, but was pressured to leave earlier by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump in August and had not intended to include the deputy director on his revamped management team. McCabe was a career FBI official, not a political appointee.

The FBI had no official comment. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump had no role in the move. “The president wasn’t part of this decision-making process,” Sanders said.

The early departure comes after McCabe endured months of tough criticism from Republicans for his loyalty to fired Comey and alleged bias against Trump.

Comey himself praised McCabe’s two decades of FBI service, saying he “stood tall over the last eight months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on”.

“I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you,” Comey added in a tweet.

McCabe and Comey had key roles in the FBI’s probe of Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, which ultimately cleared the Democrat of criminal wrongdoing in her misuse of a personal email server while she was secretary of state.

The president has repeatedly assailed that decision as wrong, and recently released text messages between two investigators involved in the Clinton probe that showed them strongly opposed to Trump.

[Comey] enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does
Andrew McCabe

An FBI inspector general is currently investigating the handling of the Clinton case.

McCabe and Comey were also involved in the initial stages of an ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the election, which Trump calls “fake news”.

Angered by that investigation, Trump fired Comey on May 9.

CIA director Mike Pompeo told the BBC in an interview aired on Monday that he expects Russia to try to meddle in the US congressional election in November of this year.

“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo said. “I have every expectation that they will continue to try to do that.”

CIA chief: Russians will meddle in coming US election

McCabe became acting FBI director and days later, in testimony to Congress, he rebutted Trump’s claim that Comey had left the bureau “in turmoil” and had lost the confidence of the FBI staff.

McCabe said Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does”.

Accusations of bias also arose from McCabe’s wife having run as a Democrat for local Virginia political office as a Democrat in 2015, receiving financial support from the party.

In July 2017, Trump questioned why Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not dismiss him.

“Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars [US$700,000] for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trump named Wray the new FBI director in August, and kept up the pressure on McCabe. He tweeted again in December about McCabe’s wife, and his role in the Clinton probe. He added a hint that McCabe was soon to depart, before it was publicly known.

“FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!” Trump wrote.

Republican legislator Matt Gaetz called McCabe’s move “a step forward” for the FBI.

“The past several weeks and months have seen worrisome evidence of bias and wrongdoing at the FBI come to light,” he said, referring to the investigators’ anti-Trump text messages.

But McCabe retained strong support from within the Justice community, and Democrats have called Trump’s pressure a part of a broader campaign to tarnish the bureau and weaken the Mueller collusion investigation.