Acting on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials, attorney general Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the bureau long scorned by President Donald Trump — two days before McCabe's scheduled retirement date. Trump called it "a great day for Democracy."
McCabe responded with a blistering and lengthy statement, suggesting the move was part of the Trump administration's "war on the FBI." The full text of McCabe's statement is at the bottom of this story.
Trump tweeted in praise of Sessions' announcement Friday night, asserting without elaboration that McCabe "knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels off the FBI!"
An upcoming inspector general's report is expected to conclude that McCabe, a confidant of fired FBI Director James Comey, authorized the release of information to the media and was not 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.
McCabe said his credibility had been attacked as "part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally" but also the FBI and law enforcement.
"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 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."
McCabe asserted he was singled out because of the "role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey," whom Trump dismissed last May.
Mueller is investigating whether Trump's actions, including Comey's ouster, constitute obstruction of justice. McCabe could be an important witness.
Trump, in his Tweet early Saturday, said McCabe's firing was "a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI — A great day for Democracy." He said "Sanctimonious James Comey," as McCabe's boss, made McCabe "look like a choirboy."
McCabe said the release of the findings against him was accelerated after he told congressional officials that he could corroborate Comey's accounts of Comey's conversations with the president.
McCabe spent more than 20 years as a career FBI official and played key roles in some of the bureau's most recent significant investigations. Trump repeatedly condemned him over the past year as emblematic of an FBI leadership he contends is biased against his administration.
McCabe had been on leave from the FBI since January, when he abruptly left the deputy director position. He had planned to retire on Sunday, and the dismissal probably jeopardizes his ability to collect his full pension benefits. His removal could add to the turmoil that has enveloped the FBI since Comey's firing and as the FBI continues its Trump campaign investigation that the White House has dismissed as a hoax.
The firing arises from an inspector general review into how the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation. That inquiry focused not only on specific decisions made by FBI leadership but also on news media leaks.
McCabe came under 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 has concluded that McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter for that story and that McCabe had not been forthcoming with investigators. McCabe denies it.
In his statement, McCabe said he had the authority to share information with journalists through the public affairs office, a practice he said was common and continued under the current FBI director, Christopher Wray. McCabe said he honestly answered questions about whom he had spoken to and when, and that when he thought his answers were misunderstood, he contacted investigators to correct them.
The media outreach came at a time when McCabe said he was facing public accusations of partisanship and followed reports that his wife, during a run for the state Senate in Virginia, had received campaign contributions from a Clinton ally. McCabe suggested in his statement that he was trying to "set the record straight" about the FBI's independence against the background of those allegations.
Despite his defense, officials at the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility recommended the firing, leaving Justice Department leaders in a difficult situation. Sessions, whose job status has for months appeared shaky under his own blistering criticism from Trump, risked inflaming the White House if he decided against firing McCabe. But a decision to dismiss McCabe days before his retirement nonetheless carried the risk of angering his rank-and-file supporters at the FBI.
McCabe enjoyed a rapid career ascent in the bureau after joining in 1996. Before being named FBI deputy director last year, he led the bureau's national security branch and also the Washington field office, one of the its largest.
But he became entangled in presidential politics in 2016 when it was revealed that his wife, during her unsuccessful legislative run, received campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton friend. 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.
He became acting director following the firing last May of Comey, and immediately assumed direct oversight of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign.
He quickly found himself at odds with the Trump administration.
As a congressional hearing days after Comey's dismissal, McCabe contradicted White House assertions that the Trump campaign investigation was one of the "smallest things" on the FBI's plate. He also strongly disputed the administration's suggestion that Comey had lost the support of the bureau's workforce.
"I can tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees, enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey," McCabe said.
Andrew McCabe's full statement:
I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.
For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.
The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.
The OIG investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request. The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth. During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.
But looking at that in isolation completely misses the big picture. The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.
Here is the reality: 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. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey’s accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG’s focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens. Thursday’s comments from the White House are just the latest example of this.
This attack on my credibility is one 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. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.
I have always prided myself on serving my country with distinction and integrity, and I always encouraged those around me to do the same. Just ask them. To have my career end in this way, and to be accused of lacking candor when at worst I was distracted in the midst of chaotic events, is incredibly disappointing and unfair. But it will not erase the important work I was privileged to be a part of, the results of which will in the end be revealed for the country to see.
I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred.