Deputy FBI Director McCabe steps down

Andrew McCabe stepped down as deputy director of the FBI on Monday, bowing to pressure from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE and congressional Republicans who were clamoring for his ouster.

McCabe had already planned to leave the FBI in 2018, but will now immediately go on leave and then retire in mid-March, when he is eligible to receive his full pension benefits, according to The New York Times.

Republican allies of Trump have long accused McCabe of bias in his handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada MORE email case, and several of them said his resignation was long overdue.

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“The news that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down is a step forward,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse panels postpone meeting with Rosenstein Florida Dems attack GOP campaign as ‘racist’ after Republican labels Gillum 'Kill'em' on crime Top Trump ally in Congress says Rosenstein should be impeached even if he was joking about wearing a wire MORE (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “I will continue fighting on behalf of the American people to expose and eradicate corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice.”

 

The abrupt retirement of McCabe, who briefly served as FBI director after James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself MORE’s firing, underscored the rapid deterioration of the relationship between the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) amid special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia investigation.

The tensions were heightened by the House Intelligence Committee’s vote late Monday to make public a four-page memo that is said to allege misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI.

Trump is inclined to allow the release of the memo, even though a top DOJ official has warned the move would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

Increasingly, the feud between Trump and his Justice Department is playing out in leaks to the press.

NBC News reported that Trump lashed out at McCabe on the day of Comey’s firing because the ousted director was allowed to fly on a government jet. The president reportedly suggested McCabe ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to her failed 2015 bid for a Virginia state Senate seat.

Democrats accuse the president of trying to improperly influence law enforcement and say his actions toward McCabe and other DOJ officials could help Mueller build an obstruction of justice case against him.

McCabe had become one of the biggest targets in Trump’s effort to “fight back” against Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a probe he has denounced as a “witch hunt.”

Trump took to Twitter last summer to suggest McCabe should be removed from office because of his ties to Comey and the political support his wife received from allies of Clinton.

That came on the heels of reports that Trump asked McCabe during an introductory Oval Office meeting whom he voted for in the 2016 election. Trump has denied asking that question. 

The president also criticized McCabe over earlier reports of his March retirement, saying he was “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.”

The White House on Monday denied that Trump had anything to do with McCabe’s departure.

“I can say that the president wasn’t a part of this decision-making process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Overall, McCabe is the third FBI official involved in the original investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia to leave or be removed from their post.

In addition to Comey, FBI agent Peter Strzok was reassigned from Mueller’s investigation last year after it was revealed he sent anti-Trump texts to an FBI lawyer he was having an affair with.

FBI Director Christopher Wray had pressured McCabe to step down, citing a forthcoming inspector general report about McCabe’s handling of the Clinton email case, according to The New York Times.

But the House memo may have also played into the decision. That document, authored by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy Senate Dem: Trump's 'fake, hyperbolic rantings' an insult to real Medal of Honor recipients Trump: Nunes should receive Medal of Honor MORE (R-Calif.), reportedly mentions McCabe by name when alleging abuse in the FBI.

“Andrew McCabe cuts across every facet of every investigation in 2016 that your viewers are interested in, from Secretary Clinton’s emails to the investigation into the Trump campaign,” Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyHouse GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans MORE (R-S.C.) told Fox News in December. 

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.

McCabe ran the FBI in an acting capacity after Trump fired Comey. The president then chose Wray, a former DOJ official, as Comey’s replacement. 

As a civil servant, McCabe cannot be fired without clear evidence of wrongdoing. 

But Wray put pressure on McCabe to leave his post and take another position at the bureau amid the attacks from Trump, according to The New York Times. 

McCabe had weathered one of the most controversial periods in the FBI’s history, with Republicans arguing that the bureau inappropriately tried to tip the scale in Clinton’s favor in the 2016 presidential election.

McCabe has been a staunch defender of Comey, testifying before Congress that White House claims that FBI rank and file had lost faith in the former director were “inaccurate” and calling the investigation “highly significant.” 

He burst back into the public view after the Strzok texts became public. 

In one of the texts, Strzok seems to refer to an “insurance policy” against Trump winning the 2016 election — a conversation that appeared to take place in McCabe’s office. 

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” 

Some reporting has since suggested that Strzok was urging a thorough pursuit of the agency’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, underway since July.

Updated at 8:25 p.m.