Transcript for FBI deputy director steps down
And we begin tonight with the sudden departure of the number two man at the FBI, and a frequent target of the president's criticism. Mccabe stepped in temporarily when FBI director James Comey was fired, defending the scope of the FBI's Russia investigation. And defending James Comey, saying the rank and file had not lost confidence in him. Tonight, the white house answering questions, did the president pressure the justice department in any way to push Mccabe out? ABC's senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas leading us off. Reporter: Tonight, the number two at the FBI stepping down, following months of blistering attacks from president trump. Today, the president ignoring questions about Andrew Mccabe's early departure. Mr. President, have you been told Mccabe is resigning? Mr. President, have you been told that Mccabe is resigning? Thank you. Reporter: It was Mccabe who stepped in after president trump fired FBI director James Comey. Thurst into the national spotlight. Days later, on capitol hill, Mccabe defending his former boss after the white house claimed that the rank and file had lost confidence in Comey. Is it accurate that the rank and file no longer supported director Comey? No sir, that is not accurate. I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to director Comey. Reporter: At the time, the white house also insisted the FBI investigation into Russian meddling and any possible collusion was, quote, one of the smallest things the FBI is doing. Mccabe was asked if that's true. Sir, we consider it to be a highly significant investigation. Reporter: While today the president refused to comment on Mccabe, in a series of tweets, he's let the world know about his disdain for Mccabe. In July, taking aim at Mccabe's wife's run for state senate in Virginia, a campaign that was finished when Mccabe became deputy director. And a candidacy Mccabe disclosed. "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace acting FBI director Andrew Mccabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation, but got big dollars, $700,000 for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton." And in December, after Mccabe let it be known he was retiring in March, the president tweeting, "FBI deputy director Andrew Mccabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go." It was just last week, ABC news confirmed what Mccabe told colleagues. He says shortly after being named acting director, the president asked him, who did you vote for? Mccabe's answer? I did not vote. Did you ask Mccabe who he voted for? Did you ask him that? I don't think so. No, I don't think I did. You did not? I don't know what's the big deal with that. Reporter: The news of Mccabe's departure comes a week after we learned sessions was putting pressure on Christopher WRAY to fire Mccabe. Something that WRAY refused to do, and days after reports president trump wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last June. The white house was pressed today. Is the president applying pressure on his attorney general and on the justice department to get rid of certain people? The only thing the president applied pressure to is to make sure this gets resolved, so, you guys and everyone else can focus on the things Americans actually care about. Let's get to Pierre Thomas tonight. And Pierre, you have new reporting about why Mccabe stepped down today? Reporter: David, sources are telling us tonight, Mccabe was getting indications that an upcoming inspector general report dealing with both the Hillary Clinton probe and Russia was likely going to be rough on him. He decided to leave so as not to be a distraction. David? Pierre, thank you. We do have one more question on this tonight, let's bring in our senior white house correspondent Cecilia Vega, she's live at the white house. I know you pressed Sara Sanders on whether president trump had anything to do with Andrew Mccabe's departure, and here's what he said today. Reporter: Can you say that the president did not play a role in Andrew Mccabe stepping down? Yes, I can say that the president wasn't part of this decision-making process and we would refer you to the FBI, where Christopher WRAY serves as the director. The president has full confidence in him and has put the decisions at the FBI in his hands. So, Cecilia, we heard that there, a denial from Sarah Sanders, but this white house is really facing questions if the president is trying to influence the justice department. Reporter: David, you remember, president trump fired FBI director James Comey, sources tell us, he moved to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, and now Andrew Mccabe is out. The white house may be denying that the president played a role in Andrew Mccabe's ouster today, but president trump made it very clear he wanted him gone. David, the big question facing this administration right now, in the midst of this Russia investigation, is president trump pressuring his top law enforcement officials out of the job, and David, does this amount to obstruction? Cecilia Vega with us at the white house tonight. Cecilia, thank you. And as you know, Cecilia and the whole team will be here because president trump will deliver his first state of the union address. And ABC news and our entire powerhouse political team will cover it live. 9:00 P.M. Eastern, right here tomorrow night.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.