Attorney General Jeff Sessions is deciding how to handle an internal Justice Department recommendation to fire outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over his conduct in 2016 just as McCabe is set to retire this weekend.
The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe be dismissed over an alleged “lack of candor” during an investigation into his contacts with former Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett, a person close to McCabe confirmed to NPR.
Barrett wrote a story about the Justice Department and FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation in which McCabe was involved.
“The entire thing is about the conversations with Devlin and how he talked about it,” said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive internal FBI matters.
People in McCabe’s camp say he has an explanation for any inconsistencies in his account of the conversations and in each instance he went back and corrected the record, often citing the chaos around him and the FBI at the time.
All the same, the Office of Professional Responsibility made a recommendation to Sessions that McCabe be terminated, even though his official retirement takes effect on Sunday, March 18. McCabe had been expecting to collect a pension based on his nearly 22 years of service with the bureau.
It isn’t clear what Sessions will decide.
McCabe abruptly left his active role as deputy FBI director in late January 2018 after the new FBI director, Christopher Wray, received a briefing about the forthcoming Justice Department Inspector General report and its findings about McCabe.
DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores offered this statement:
“The department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated. 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.”
McCabe has been the subject of political attacks by President Trump and Republican supporters since the 2016 presidential campaign. McCabe’s wife, Jill, ran for the state legislature in Virginia as a Democrat and accepted campaign contributions via then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton loyalist.
Jill McCabe lost her election and the FBI and Justice Department said she and Andrew observed the relevant ethics requirements. Trump and allies called it an obvious conflict of interest.
Opponents have also pointed to references to McCabe in text messages between two senior FBI employees that criticized Trump and have embarrassed the bureau. Taken together, the threads have formed part of a concerted attack on what critics call “bias” within Justice and the FBI against Trump.