Andrew McCabe has stepped down as deputy director of the FBI, according to a report from NBC News.
McCabe’s departure isn’t surprising on its own, as he had already been planning to retire in mid-March—when he became eligible for his full retirement benefits—after more than a year of Republican attacks against him. Monday’s announcement, however, raised the question of whether McCabe decided to leave early of his own volition. Media reports so far differ on the issue, but pressure from the president appears to have played a role regardless.
Sources speaking to CNN gave conflicting accounts of McCabe’s resignation. One said as of Friday, McCabe had no plan to resign and that he was instructed to do so Monday morning. Another source corroborated this account, saying McCabe was “removed.” But a third source said McCabe announced the decision as his own. A source speaking to CNN also appeared to support the theory McCabe was pushed out by telling Jim Acosta that FBI Director Christopher Wray brought in a new team to the FBI that excluded McCabe.
President Trump has several times lashed out at McCabe on Twitter and appeared to accuse him of having been bought out by “Clinton puppets.” (McCabe’s wife had run for Virginia state Senate as a Democrat in 2015, and a political action committee run by Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton family friend and then the governor of Virginia, had donated $500,000 to her campaign.)
McCabe had angered many Republicans when he told the House Intelligence Committee that FBI Director James Comey, his former boss, had told him of his conversations with Trump in which the president demanded his loyalty.
Earlier this month, Axios reported that Jeff Sessions, urged on by Trump, had been pressuring Wray to fire McCabe. Wray had then threatened to resign if forced to do so, causing the White House to back down.
Soon after that news broke, the Washington Post reported that after firing Comey in May, Trump had asked McCabe whom he had voted for in the presidential election. McCabe, who was then acting director of the FBI, told Trump he had not voted. McCabe thought the question was “disturbing,” a former U.S. official told the Post.
McCabe had served as the FBI’s acting director after Comey’s firing, holding the position until Wray was confirmed in August.
According to NBC, officials familiar with the matter have said he is taking “terminal leave,” meaning he will remain an employee until his retirement in March in order to still receive full benefits. This was always his plan, NBC reports; the New York Times called the move “widely expected.”
According to CNN, McCabe has already been replaced by FBI Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at a press briefing Monday afternoon that the White House had “definitively” not been involved in the decision.
Update, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, at 2:25 p.m.: This post has been updated with additional information about McCabe’s decision to step down.
One more thing
If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus