FBI Deputy Director Stepping Down

Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s No. 2 official whom President Donald Trump publicly criticized for alleged political bias, stepped down from the bureau Monday, several weeks ahead of his retirement, an FBI official said.

McCabe, 49, was set to retire as deputy director in March when he becomes eligible for full pension benefits. But the 22-year veteran of the bureau decided to take “early leave” and won’t be returning to the bureau, the official said. 

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say why McCabe had opted for early departure. 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “didn’t play any role” in McCabe’s exit. 

McCabe, who was appointed deputy director in January 2016, was thrust into controversy just days before the 2016 presidential election when it was disclosed that his wife, Jill McCabe, a Democratic candidate for a Virginia Senate seat in 2015, had received campaign donations from a political action committee controlled by a friend of Hillary Clinton.

Then-candidate Trump and Republicans used the disclosure to question the FBI’s impartiality in investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server before concluding that there was no evidence to bring criminal charges against her.  

At the time, the FBI said that Andrew McCabe had consulted bureau ethics officials and that he and FBI lawyers “implemented a system of recusal from all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics.”

But the controversy continued to dog him after Trump abruptly fired then-FBI director James Comey over the Russia investigation last May, elevating McCabe into the director’s role in an acting capacity.

“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. Drain the Swamp!” Trump tweeted in July.

McCabe led the agency until August, when Christopher Wray, a former assistant attorney general, was sworn in as the new FBI director.

Trump’s excoriation of McCabe continued even after it was reported in December that McCabe would retire in March.

“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 Dec. 23.

Last week, the Axios news website reported that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had pressured Wray to fire McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if his deputy was dismissed.

Trump later denied Wray had threatened to resign under pressure, saying, “He’s going to do a good job.”

Comey, the ousted FBI director, tweeted after reports that Wray had resisted pressure to fire McCabe, saying, “Good to read reports of people standing up for what they believe in.”

Russian meddling

Trump and other Republicans say the FBI and Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, is politically motivated. 

The criticism has not been limited to McCabe. In recent weeks, critics have seized on reports that two FBI officials — Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — previously assigned to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, had exchanged anti-Trump text messages as evidence that the Russia probe is politically tainted.

Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, said last month that the criticism of top FBI officials “clearly trickles down to the agent on the street, and it trickles down to their kids in school.”

In a statement emailed to VOA on Monday, O’Connor said the association thanks “Andrew McCabe for his service, and his support of the association and our charitable efforts.”

David Gomez, a retired FBI special agent, said “it is unfortunate that what should be a joyous occasion for McCabe has been marred by political partisanship. In my opinion, and I believe the timeline of his activity proves this point, McCabe did nothing wrong.”

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