Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe stepped down from his position on Monday. McCabe exercised his retirement eligibility, taking terminal leave until his already scheduled retirement later this year.
McCabe steps down amid ongoing tensions between the White House and the FBI. He is also at the center of scrutiny because his wife received funding from then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe — a longtime ally of Hillary Clinton and prominent Democrat — during McCabe’s wife’s unsuccessful bid for the Virginia legislature in 2015. President Trump has called out McCabe for this potential conflict of interest publicly via Twitter and privately according to sources close to the issue.
“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 last month.
Though many believe the President is relieved to see McCabe go, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday that Trump received no notice from the FBI about McCabe’s departure and played no role in the move.
Some Democrats expressed concern that the early retirement was due to pressure by President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — in what they believe is an effort to oust senior officials associated with former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired last May.
“Andrew McCabe should not be replaced with a presidential stooge put in place just to kill the Russia investigation @realdonaldtrump,” tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
Former Obama era Attorney General Eric Holder also defended McCabe, tweeting “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is, and has been, a dedicated public servant who has served this country well. Bogus attacks on the FBI and DOJ to distract attention from a legitimate criminal inquiry does long term, unnecessary damage to these foundations of our government.”
Republicans increased their criticisms of McCabe in recent weeks as text messages exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his alleged lover, lawyer Lisa Page, emerged. Strzok and Page sent messages critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign — some of which referenced discussions in McCabe’s office about whether Trump could pull off a victory.
James Comey came out in late 2017 with claims of an Oval Office conversation in which he says Trump urged him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Three Senior FBI officials were informed of the conversation — McCabe was one — the other two, general counsel James Baker and chief of staff James Rybicki, also left their posts recently. Baker was reassigned; Rybicki announced plans to leave for a job in the private sector.
Some insiders claim that McCabe was named in a memo, prepared by Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Devin Nunes, alleging government surveillance abuse. Incidentally, current FBI Director Christopher Wray read that memo on Sunday. No confirmation has been made that Wray’s reading of the memo had anything to do with McCabe stepping down early.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.