Last night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe just days before McCabe was set to retire and collect his full pension. CNN reported that the deputy director considers this firing to be the latest effort of the Trump White House to discredit the FBI for political reasons.
Over his 21-year career, McCabe managed to become the second-in-command at the FBI in 2016 when he was appointed by former FBI Director James Comey. An internal FBI investigation alleges that during this time, McCabe misled investigators regarding his role in directing other FBI officials to speak to the Wall Street Journal about certain aspects of a corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The recently fired deputy director contends, however, that any missteps or inconsistencies in his directives were a direct result of the chaos around him and the FBI and that he would go back and contact investigators if he thought his answers were misunderstood.
The FBI’s internal investigation which led to the firing of McCabe was first conducted by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who was investigating the FBI’s handling of the Clinton Foundation investigation. This internal investigation led to a report which alleges that McCabe lacked candor when dealing with Wall Street Journal reporters and thus violated FBI guidelines about handling the media. This report, which has yet to become public, was then presumably shared with the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and the FBI’s senior career official – both of which recommended Andrew McCabe’s immediate firing, NPR reported.
McCabe’s firing is being seen by some as a punitive blow by the White House due to the fact that he was so close to retirement and that he was also close to former Director James Comey. In fact, back in January, McCabe announced his retirement and planned to use his accumulated leave until this March when he would’ve been able to retire with full benefits, NPR reported. This planned retirement seemed to be born out of the attacks the President levied against McCabe as well as the alleged problems with McCabe’s handling of the Clinton investigation. The fact that the administration might make McCabe fight for his pension by firing him instead of just waiting 48 hours until his retirement this Sunday is seen as a direct attack, especially by McCabe himself.
“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.”
The allegation that Trump is attempting to discredit the FBI and its senior officials is not a new one. Whether it be the firing of James Comey (via the Telegraph), the handling of the House Intelligence Committee memos, or the President’s repeated attacks on the Bureau through social media (via New York Times), the President has gotten a reputation for being harsh on the FBI and purging what he perceives to be political bias from the law enforcement agency. Supporters of the President point to the removal of top FBI agent Peter Strzork from the Mueller probe due to alleged bias as proof of rampant political partisanship within the FBI, according to CNN.
Critics of the President maintain that Trump wants the FBI to be loyal to him personally. Critics cite a pattern of behavior such as reports of the President asking Comey for a loyalty pledge and asking the ex-director to stop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is now indicted for making false statements to the FBI and is allegedly working with Robert Mueller on the Russia Probe. Trump critics assert that Trump’s goal is to discredit the FBI in order to taint Mueller’s Russia Probe with the foul stain of partisanship. Such a strategy could lead the American people to the same conclusion that the President has maintained since the campaign trail: that the Russia Probe is an absolute hoax.
While the future of the FBI and the Russia Probe remain unclear, former Director James Comey plans to release his tell-all autobiography titled A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership on April 16th. While most don’t expect Comey to spill state secrets in his memoir, the book promises to tell yet-unheard anecdotes based around the last 20 years of high-stakes decisions in the American government and may give some insight into how President Trump handled the FBI during Comey’s tenure according to Axios.