Sessions fires McCabe from FBI

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRyan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families MORE on Friday fired Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeWhy does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? FBI confidence in leaders sank after Comey was fired: report Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans MORE, the No. 2 official at the FBI and a longtime target of President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE.

McCabe's ouster comes just days before he was scheduled to retire on Sunday, after more than 20 years at the bureau. McCabe had already stepped down under pressure in January and has been on a leave of absence since.

In a statement Friday evening, Sessions said that the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of Inspector General (OIG) had found McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and "lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions."

"Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately," Sessions said.

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McCabe quickly declared that his termination and Trump's needling against him were an effort to undermine special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation, in which he could be a potential witness.

“The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” McCabe told The New York Times. “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.” 

McCabe's dismissal came at the recommendation of an internal FBI office that handles disciplinary matters. According to Times, the recommendation was based on a finding from the Justice Department inspector general that McCabe was not forthcoming during the review, which includes an investigation into a decision he made in 2016 to allow FBI officials to speak with reporters about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

The exact details of the allegations against McCabe remain unclear.

It is also unclear why the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, chose to act on his findings regarding McCabe before closing the overall investigation into decisions made during the 2016 election. Horowitz has said publicly that he expects to issue his final report this spring.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department told The Hill that the agency couldn't comment on whether the decision would strip McCabe of his FBI pension.

The Times reported earlier this week that McCabe's retirement was set to go into effect Sunday and his firing could jeopardize his pension as a 21-year veteran of the FBI.

In a lengthy statement, McCabe blasted his firing, which he claimed was an attempt to destroy his reputation and career in the wake of what he witnessed at the Justice Department surrounding former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey: 'Patriots need to stand up and reject' Trump's behavior Swalwell: Trump delaying end of Russia probe with refusal to testify Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? MORE's firing last year.

"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," McCabe wrote.

"The OIG's focus on me and this report became 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," he wrote.

McCabe’s dismissal is another indication of the increasingly bitter politics surrounding the federal investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia. As deputy director, McCabe was integrally involved in both the bureau’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE’s email server and the Russia probe.

A longtime target of the right thanks to political donations his wife accepted from a Clinton ally, McCabe has drawn the president’s ire in recent months.

Trump goaded Sessions into dismissing McCabe, tweeting in July, “Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation?”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday insisted that the determination whether to fire McCabe would be left up to Sessions, but called the career civil servant a “bad actor.”

“We do think it is well documented that he has had some very troubling behavior and by most accounts is a bad actor and should have some cause for concern,” she told reporters.

As a career agent, McCabe cannot be fired without just cause of wrongdoing, and the president in theory has no direct say in such a dismissal, as he does with a political appointee.

But the decision is nevertheless almost certain to be controversial in light of Trump’s longstanding ire against the deputy director.

McCabe had been in GOP crosshairs since the 2016 election, over what Republicans have characterized as a conflict of interest in the Clinton probe. His wife, Jill McCabe, accepted almost $500,000 in political donations from a group affiliated with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a close Clinton ally, during her run for state Senate.

“How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?” Trump tweeted in December.

According to documents released by the FBI in November, McCabe recused himself from state corruption cases in Virginia as a result of his wife’s candidacy. He was not warned by bureau officials to step back from the Clinton investigation, however, when it began a few months later.

McCabe was then the assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, according to the bureau, and he “provided personnel resources” to the email investigation in its early stages.

But he “was not told what the investigation was about” until he was appointed deputy director in 2016 — months after the Virginia election had concluded, the documents state.

His abrupt resignation in January was met with glee from conservatives, some of whom said it was long overdue.

“The news that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down is a step forward,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzSacha Baron Cohen mulls arming toddlers with guns in inaugural episode Who to watch for in Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming show GOP lawmaker thinks he was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen MORE (R-Fla.) said in a statement at the time. “I will continue fighting on behalf of the American people to expose and eradicate corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice.”

Democrats have accused the president of trying to improperly influence law enforcement and say his longstanding aggression towards McCabe and other Justice Department officials could help Mueller build an obstruction of justice case against him.

– John Bowden contributed

Updated at 10:30 p.m.