Sessions may fire top FBI official before pension eligibility

WASHINGTON — The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who remains on the payroll — a move that could put the veteran official’s pension at risk, according to officials familiar with the process.

The recommendation is now before Attorney General Jeff Sessions. OPR has already determined that McCabe should be fired and it’s now up to Sessions whether to reverse that recommendation or to accept it.

McCabe — who has been attacked by President Donald Trump and other Republicans for alleged anti-Trump bias inside the FBI — had previously announced his intention to leave and is due to retire this weekend. If Sessions were to fire him before then, it would place McCabe’s federal pension at risk.

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Sessions reviewing recommendation to fire ex-FBI deputy director McCabe
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The OPR recommendation that he be thrown off the payroll follows an internal report from the DOJ inspector general that concluded McCabe was not fully forthcoming in answers about whether he talked to a reporter concerning the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation. The IG report has not been made public, but may be released soon.

McCabe, who has been with the FBI since 1996, is a civil service employee who can’t be fired without evidence of wrongdoing.

When it became public in January the McCabe had decided to step aside, FBI Director Chris Wray made it clear in a message to all bureau employees at that time that his departure was tied to the inspector general report.


Jeff Sessions (middle) and Andrew McCabe (right) with former HHS secretary Tom Price in July. Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

Several sources familiar with McCabe’s move told NBC News that he made the decision to retire as a result of a meeting with Wray in which the inspector general’s investigation was discussed.

The Department of Justice won’t comment directly on the OPR report and Sessions’ upcoming decision, which was first reported by The New York Times.

“The Department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated,” the DOJ 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.”

Officials familiar with what’s happening said Sessions will act on the OPR recommendations soon. The expectation is that the attorney general will accept it and fire McCabe.

Trump has been critical of McCabe and even tweeted that he was “racing the clock” in an attempt to retire with full benefits.

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FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2017

The president has also made derogatory references to the fact that McCabe’s wife, who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in Virginia, received large campaign donations from Democrats linked to Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

Trump had publicly suggested over the last year that McCabe should not remain in FBI leadership. Last July, the president questioned why Sessions hadn’t replaced McCabe, whom the president described as “a (former FBI director James) Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation.”

McCabe was not involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton while his wife was running for office; he became involved in the probe in February 2016.

McCabe’s departure comes during the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump obstructed justice in Russia investigation and whether his campaign colluded with Moscow. Given his position at the FBI and his interactions with Trump, McCabe is likely to be of use to Mueller in the obstruction inquiry, NBC News has reported.

Late last year, McCabe was questioned for hours by congressional committee behind closed doors as part of their investigation of the FBI and its 2016 inquiry into Clinton’s email practices when she was secretary of state.

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