Officials within the FBI have recommended that the agency’s embattled former deputy director, Andy McCabe, be fired, just days before he is set to officially leave government, according to a source with knowledge of the recommendation.
The recommendation from the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility came after an internal report by the Justice Department’s inspector general accused the FBI veteran of misleading investigators looking into an array of matters connected to the 2016 presidential campaign, the source said.
McCabe is worried that if he were to be fired in the next few days, before he is officially eligible for his retirement benefits, he could lose a full pension that he has built after nearly 22 years of public service, according to sources familiar with McCabe’s thinking.
McCabe never intentionally misled investigators and did his best to accurately address investigators’ questions, according to those sources.
Now, senior officials within the Justice Department, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will decide McCabe’s fate.
“The Department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said Wednesday. “That process includes recommendations from career employees and no termination decision is final until the conclusion of that process. We have no personnel announcements at this time.”
For more than a year, the Justice Department’s inspector general has been looking into whether McCabe should have done more to shield certain investigations from potential conflicts of interest, and the inspector general’s office recently completed a draft report on McCabe.
In the draft report, internal investigators conclude McCabe went too far in trying to push back against media reports questioning whether family ties to Democrats could impact his work, particularly when he authorized FBI officials to speak with a reporter about the agency’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation, according to a source familiar with the findings.
But the draft report takes particular issue with how forthcoming McCabe was when Justice Department officials asked him questions about his actions, according to the source.
Those close to McCabe insist he has been forthcoming with investigators.
McCabe “tried at every juncture to be as accurate and of course truthful” as he could, and he even “proactively reached out” to investigators to clarify any misunderstandings and make sure they had the most complete information from him, according to one source speaking in defense of McCabe.
The source insisted that McCabe never authorized “a leak” to a reporter and that discussions with a reporter about the Clinton Foundation probe were coordinated by an agency spokesman and an FBI attorney.
“It took place over the course of several days,” the source said. “So to be kind of retrospectively misrepresented as sort of a clandestine secretive leak is sort of … an unfair portrayal.”
President Donald Trump and his son have not been shy about weighing in on McCabe’s fate. Three months ago, after McCabe announced that he would be stepping down as the FBI’s deputy director but remain a government employee until retirement, President Donald Trump tweeted that McCabe was “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.”
“So they will keep him on till then despite all this to make sure the American tax payer is stuck paying him for the rest of his life?” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
Federal law states that government employees can lose their pension and benefits if convicted of a federal crime – there is no indication McCabe could face any charges for his actions.
Nevertheless, even some of those who have been convicted of lying to federal authorities or other offenses were able to retain their pensions.
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to authorities about his contacts with a Russian official, has been able to retain the pension he accrued from 33 years of military service.
Similarly, in 2015, after former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus admitted to giving his mistress classified information and then lying to FBI agents about it, Petraeus was able to retain his pension, which reportedly pays him $208,000 a year.
McCabe first joined the FBI in 1996, investigating organized crime cases in New York. Over the next several years, he shifted his focus to rooting out international terrorists, and in 2012 he became the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division at headquarters in Washington.
In October 2013, McCabe took over the FBI’s entire national security branch, and the next year he moved to become the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. He then rejoined the ranks at FBI headquarters, becoming the deputy director in February 2016.
Over the past year, McCabe has become a frequent target of criticism from Trump and Republican lawmakers, who allege that McCabe’s time at the top of the FBI was emblematic of political bias in the FBI’s law enforcement work.
In particular, McCabe came under fire for what Republicans claimed were conflicts of interest because his wife ran for state senate in Virginia as a Democrat in 2015 while the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
At the time his wife was running for election, McCabe was the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Emails and correspondence released by the FBI show McCabe recused himself from any public corruption cases tied to Virginia. And according to the FBI documents, McCabe had no oversight of the Clinton matter until he became deputy director in February 2016, three months after his wife lost her election bid.
Still, in October 2016, the Wall Street Journal published at least one article that called into question McCabe’s ability to fairly oversee the federal probe of the Clinton Foundation. Ahead of the story’s publication, McCabe authorized an FBI spokesman to speak with the Wall Street Journal about efforts to keep the Clinton Foundation investigation moving forward, the source familiar with the inspector general’s findings told ABC News.
Days after the Wall Street Journal story was published, McCabe recused himself from the Clinton matter.
In December, FBI director Chris Wray defended McCabe, telling lawmakers he would “quarrel” with suggestions that McCabe has expressed any sort of political bias.
“I'm not aware of any senior FBI executives who are allowing improper political considerations to affect their work with me right now,” Wray told the House Judiciary Committee.
Nevertheless, three months ago the FBI announced McCabe would be vacating his post as deputy director, and he would be relying on vacation days he had accumulated to carry him to his official retirement.