US Attorney General Jeff Sessions fires former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe days before retirement
Firing comes before a report expected to conclude that he was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it reviewed the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Friday night that he was firing former Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a long-time and frequent target of President Donald Trump’s anger, just two days before his scheduled retirement.
The move, which had been expected, was made on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials and comes ahead of an inspector general report expected to conclude that McCabe was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it reviewed 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, adding that “all FBI employees know that lacking candour under oath results in dismissal”.
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
McCabe immediately disputed the findings in his own statement, saying the firing was part of a Trump administration “war” on the FBI.
“I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said, referring to the former FBI director who was fired by Trump last May.
Trump celebrated the firing on Twitter, calling it “a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI”.
Though McCabe had spent more than 20 years as a career FBI official, and is said to have played roles in some of the bureau’s most significant recent 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 January, when he abruptly left the deputy director position. But it comes just ahead of his planned retirement, today, and puts his pension in jeopardy.
McCabe came under scrutiny from the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office 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 authorised FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for that story and that he had not been forthcoming with investigators about that – something McCabe denies, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Officials at the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility had recommended the firing, leaving Justice Department leaders in a difficult situation.
Sessions, whose job status has for months appeared shaky under blistering criticism from Trump, risked inflaming the White House if McCabe were notfired.
Dismissing McCabe two days before his retirement carried the risk of angering his rank-and-file supporters at the FBI.
McCabe, a lawyer by training, enjoyed a rapid career ascent in the bureau after joining in 1996. But he became entangled in presidential politics in 2016 when it was revealed that his wife, during an unsuccessful bid for the Virginia state Senate, had received more than US$675,000 in campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton ally.
The FBI has said McCabe received the necessary ethics approval about his wife’s candidacy and was not supervising the Clinton investigation at the time the contributions were made.