Sessions fires Andrew McCabe a little more than 24 hours before retirement
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe a little more than 24 hours from now in what some critics believe was a rushed decision for political reasons to act quickly enough to take his pension away.
And McCabe later told a reporter for the New York Times that he believed he was fired to undermine his credibility in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and the 2016 Presidential election.
Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”
He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”
The move will likely cost McCabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.
McCabe has become a lightning rod in the political battles over the FBI’s most high-profile cases, including the Russia investigation and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. He has been a frequent target of criticism from President Trump.
His firing — which was recommended by the FBI office that handles discipline — stems from a Justice Department inspector general investigation that found McCabe authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media about a Clinton-related case, then misled investigators about his actions in the matter, people familiar with the matter have said. He stepped down earlier this year from the No. 2 job in the bureau after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was briefed on the inspector general’s findings, though he technically was still an employee.
McCabe to the New York Times:
Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.
In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. “The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he said, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”
F.B.I. disciplinary officials recommended his dismissal. Mr. McCabe, who stepped down in January and took a leave of absence, denied the accusation and appealed this week to senior career officials in the Justice Department.
Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.
Mr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.
As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.
In a statement released by his lawyers, Mr. McCabe said his firing was part of Mr. Trump’s “ongoing war on the F.B.I.” and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. He said he answered questions truthfully in the internal investigation and contacted investigators to correct the record when he believed they misunderstood him.
“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,” he said.
Mr. McCabe, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran, was eligible for a government pension if he retired on Sunday. The firing jeopardizes that benefit, though it was not immediately clear how much he might lose.
“It’s incredibly unfair to my reputation after a 21-year career,” Mr. McCabe said. He said the president’s public attacks were aimed at several targets. “The real damage is being done to the F.B.I., law enforcement and the special counsel,” he said.
Some more background from The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Trump and his allies have sharply criticized Mr. McCabe, raising conflict-of-interest concerns because of another Journal article in October 2016 that said Mr. McCabe’s wife had run for a Virginia state Senate as a Democrat with the financial help of a Clinton ally, then- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
In July, Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. McCabe on Twitter, asking why Mr. Sessions hadn’t replaced him, calling Mr. McCabe “a Comey friend” who was tainted by the campaign donation to his wife. Mr. Trump incorrectly alleged that Jill McCabe had received the money directly from Mrs. Clinton.
The FBI has said Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign and Mr. McCabe received clearance from the FBI’s ethics office to oversee the Clinton investigation.
What if Sessions hadn’t fired McCabe after the FBI’s OPR recommended it based on the IG report (rightly or wrongly)? Trump would have fired Sessions, and would have had an easy time justifying it to his supporters. So could it be Sessions acted to buy himself & Mueller more time?
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) March 17, 2018
CNN banner: "McCabe says accusations fit into 'pattern of attacks' including by Trump" pic.twitter.com/qB4uWMI0Cj
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 17, 2018
So that @FoxNews story about Andrew McCabe’s firing earlier today was clearly them getting a heads up on this move from the administration right?
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) March 17, 2018
Jeff Sessions just fired Andrew McCabe. After over 2 decades of honorable service to this nation with the FBI McCabe now loses his pension worth $1.8 million.
McCabe was retiring in 2 days.
This is beyond disgusting. This is Trumpian.
— Brian Krassenstein? (@krassenstein) March 17, 2018
The fix was in from Donald Trump when he tweeted 90 days ago his threat about McCabe’s pension. This is a complete disgrace. Sure to exacerbate concerns among “the generals” about his conduct in office.
— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) March 17, 2018
prediction: McCabe will challenge this decision in court and win
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) March 17, 2018
My prediction is that the McCabe firing, like the Comey firing, will end up backfiring.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 17, 2018
Sessions has fired McCabe to strip him of the automatic pension he would’ve received had he been allowed to stay on till his birthday the day after tomorrow. His offense was leaking some Clinton-related info in 2016 and not being forthright about it. Vindictive hypocrisy by Trump
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) March 17, 2018
So, presumably McCabe is going to sue. And presumably in the course of that suit, some pretty interesting disclosure will occur. This seems like a dumb move by Team Trump.
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) March 17, 2018
Few stories make me feel physically ill the way this does. Trump’s vindictiveness is abnormal and dangerous: Andrew McCabe, a Target of Trump’s F.B.I. Scorn, Is Fired Over Candor Questions via @NYTimes https://t.co/0kjkJsaAOB
— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) March 17, 2018
Sessions told the media McCabe was fired before he even told McCabe. It was the media who informed McCabe.
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) March 17, 2018
If you aren't seeing the echoes of 1974, you're not paying attention.
Don't worry about McCabe's pension. He's going to make more off his book deal than his pension.
And he's liberated to speak the truth.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) March 17, 2018
Everyone who comes in contact with Mr. Trump pays a price. But taking a man's retirement? Classless. https://t.co/gFZlCMKTzr
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) March 17, 2018
Andrew McCabe fired.
Joe Arpaio pardoned.
— The Daily Edge (@TheDailyEdge) March 17, 2018
Nothing says Republican like taking away someone’s pension with 22 years of dedicated service in defending America right before his 50th birthday in an effort to please the ego of a corrupt sexual predator under criminal FBI investigations. https://t.co/2ognWvFJc2
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) March 17, 2018
Good moment to (re)read this piece by @murraywaas:
“Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him”#McCabehttps://t.co/1HZJvDOZPJ
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) March 17, 2018
If Sessions and Trump have nothing to hide in firing this key witness to Comey’s dealings with Trump, why hide the firing late on a Friday night?
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 17, 2018
— The Hill (@thehill) March 17, 2018
Don’t worry too much about McCabe. He’s a great guy, and this sucks, but he’ll win his appeal, his book deal is going to be nuts, and he’s going to be invaluable to Mueller.
Trump has *no* idea how bad he just screwed up.
— Angry WH Staffer (@AngrierWHStaff) March 17, 2018
I’ll guarantee you that this will anger FBI rank & file to an unbelievable level. Depriving a man of his hard earned pension is an unforgivable sin, especially when other disciplinary measures were available. Every FBI agent knows this was a political hit job.
— Tahar (@laseptiemewilay) March 17, 2018
1. The part of McCabe's statement that REALLY sets everything on fire is when he says that the release of the report was only accelerated after his testimony to HPSCI revealed he would corroborate Comey's account of interactions with Trump.
— Ale (@aliasvaughn) March 17, 2018
Hopefully, Andrew McCabe anticipated that Trump and Sessions would remain consistent, meaning they would act as cowards and scapegoat him for failing to prosecute Hillary. Until McCabe’s testimony is released, and the IG’s report, difficult to believe this was not a political act
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) March 17, 2018