Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a late-night statement Friday that he had fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, following an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general that found McCabe had “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor—including under oath—on multiple occasions.”
In the statement, released at 9:59 p.m. EST, Sessions said that based on the inspector general’s report and the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”
McCabe was expected to retire this Sunday, his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible for full retirement benefits. Sessions’ decision to fire McCabe, who briefly served as the interim director of the FBI, will likely severely limit those benefits.
In a lengthy statement, McCabe denied lying to the Justice Department’s inspector general and described the collapse of his career as the result of “my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.”
The reality, McCabe said: “I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.”
At 12:08 a.m. on Saturday morning, just over two hours after Sessions issued his statement, Trump Tweeted:
"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"
Sarah Flores, a Justice Department spokesperson, told The Daily Beast that McCabe was informed of his firing before the press statement went out.
Tom Fuentes, retired assistant FBI director, told The Daily Beast that the fact that McCabe was charged with lacking candor is significant.
“From the day you become an agent, and I mean the very first minute you’re at Quantico, you are told that lack of candor is the very worst sin you can commit, just short of murder.”
Fuentes added that he didn’t think Trump’s insistence that Sessions fire McCabe informed the Bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which, according to Sessions’ statement, recommended McCabe’s firing.
“You have the OPR recommending the firing,” Fuentes told The Daily Beast. “That’s not going to be a political decision.”
Fuentes said the severe punishment may have been because of McCabe’s high position.
“There is kind of a sliding scale of justice: The higher you go—and this is drummed into everyone up the chain of command—the higher you go in the organization, the more accountable you’re going to be held for those violations,” Fuentes said. “Typically the higher you go, the stricter the discipline’s going to be.”
After joining the nation’s principal law enforcement agency in 1996, McCabe swiftly rose through the ranks before attaining the rank of deputy director in February 2016. Three months later, McCabe briefly took the reins of the bureau when his boss, James Comey, was fired by President Donald Trump.
Comey’s attorney told The Daily Beast that he had no comment on the firing.
McCabe announced that he was stepping down from his role at the FBI earlier this year, following criticism from conservatives over allegations of anti-Trump bias due to his wife’s involvement in Democratic politics—allegations McCabe denied.
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day.”
Flores told The Daily Beast that the announcement came late on Friday because of the lengthy process which preceded it. “There is a prescribed process that is required, including an opportunity for the individual to respond to the allegations, which was followed and concluded late tonight,” Flores said.