(CNN) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe late Friday, March 16, less than two days shy of his retirement, ending the career of an official who had risen to serve as second-in-command at the bureau.
McCabe had more recently been regularly taunted by President Donald Trump and besieged by accusations that he had misled internal investigators at the Justice Department.
McCabe had been expected to retire this Sunday, on his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible to receive early retirement benefits.
But Friday’s termination could place a portion of his anticipated pension, earned after more than two decades of service, in significant jeopardy.
The origin of his dramatic fall stems from an internal review conducted by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. That report — the details of which have not been publicly released — is said to conclude that McCabe misled investigators about his role in directing other officials at the FBI to speak to The Wall Street Journal about his involvement in a public corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation, according to a source briefed on it.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the findings in Horowitz’s report on McCabe were referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, staffed with career officials, who recommended McCabe’s termination. McCabe, accompanied by his lawyer, tried making a last-ditch effort Thursday to avoid the firing, meeting with officials at the deputy attorney general’s office at the Justice Department for several hours while Sessions was traveling, but to no avail.
Horowitz’s office is continuing to investigate how the Justice Department and FBI handled sensitive investigations leading up to the 2016 presidential election — including the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server — and a more global report is expected this spring. That closely watched report, which Trump has derided as “already late,” could prove devastating for former and current top officials at the Justice Department and FBI depending on the findings, as the President has sought to weave a narrative of biased “deep state” holdovers from the Obama administration determined to undermine his presidency.
While former FBI officials say a lack of candor is a death knell for an agent’s career, Sessions’ decision to fire McCabe presented unique political complications.
Trump often used McCabe as a political punching bag on the campaign trail given his wife’s purported past ties to Clinton — going so far as heckling Sessions over the summer for failing to fire McCabe — despite the fact that Trump had interviewed McCabe just weeks prior about serving as FBI director after he ousted James Comey. In December, Trump made a cryptic reference to McCabe’s approaching retirement, tweeting: “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!”
The full implications of McCabe’s firing on his pension remain to be seen, but he could potentially stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Retirement benefits for federal employees are based on several variables in employment history, but McCabe’s salary is not public and the FBI declined to release it to CNN.