Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly considering firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, just days before the bureau’s second-highest ranking official is set to retire.
Mr. McCabe is the focus of an internal Justice Department probe on the FBI’s investigative decisions during the 2016 presidential campaign, including the probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The Justice inspector general concluded that Mr. McCabe was not forthcoming during the review, reported The New York Times, which first broke the story.
Although the report has not yet been released, The Times cited Mr. McCabe’s 2016 decision to let FBI officials speak with reporters about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. As a result, the report launched an FBI disciplinary process that recommended Mr. McCabe’s firing, the newspaper said.
It is up to Mr. Sessions to accept or reject that recommendation.
Mr. McCabe’s retirement will take effect Sunday, but he stepped down in January nearly two months before his scheduled departure. A government official at the time said Mr. McCabe was merely using his retirement eligibility a few weeks early.
If Mr. Sessions does fire Mr. McCabe, it would place his pension as a 21-year government employee in jeopardy.
SEE ALSO: Donald Trump grew wary of Andrew McCabe in wake of debunked New York Times story
No announcement is imminent, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
“The department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated,” Ms. Flores said. “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.”
Mr. McCabe has been a target of President Trump’s ire over the past year.
“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 her representatives,” Mr. Trump tweeted last year.
Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received political contributions totaling $467,500 from the political action committee of Virginia’s governor at the time, Terry McAuliffe, for her unsuccessful campaign for the state Senate in 2015. Mr. McAuliffe was co-chairman of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign and chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Mr. McCabe later took over as deputy director of the FBI and oversaw the Clinton email investigation.
SEE ALSO: Kellyanne Conway: Decision to fire Andrew McCabe is up to Jeff Sessions
And that’s not the only reason administration officials are suspicious about Mr. McCabe’s motives, a perception that go back to the first months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
A since-debunked February 2017 New York Times story reported that U.S. intelligence owned numerous intercepts and phone records of Trump campaign officials communicating with Russian intelligence.
In his new book, “Media Madness,” Fox News reporter Howard Kurtz wrote that then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was conducting an intelligence meeting when Mr. McCabe called him aside. “We want you to know that everything in this New York Times story is buls——,” Mr. Kurtz quotes Mr. McCabe as saying.
Mr. Priebus asked whether the FBI would shoot it down. The answer came back, “No,” because then the FBI would have to start commenting on news stories.
“Give me a break,” Mr. Priebus said. “I’m getting crushed all over the place, and you won’t say publicly what you told me privately?”
What happened next raised suspicions. Suddenly CNN broadcast a story casting Mr. Priebus as the bad guy trying to convince the reluctant FBI to knock down an anti-Trump story.
Mr. Kurtz said Mr. Priebus wondered, “Had he been set up? Why was the FBI leaking this information when one of its top officials had initiated the conversation?”
The irony: In June former FBI Director James B. Comey, under questioning by Republicans before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said The Times story in February was almost all wrong. When the story appeared, he said he checked with the intelligence community and then warned congressional leaders off the report.
Mr. Priebus got his FBI shootdown, albeit belatedly.
• Rowan Scarborough contributed to this article.