President Donald Trump jumped on reports that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe plans to retire in a few months after coming under blistering criticism from some congressional Republicans.
“FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!” Trump said in a Twitter message on Saturday after returning from a round of golf in Florida with PGA professionals Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and others.
McCabe, 49, has served as the No. 2 official at the FBI since February 2016, and would leave some time after he becomes fully eligible for pension benefits in March, the Washington Post reported, citing sources it didn’t identify. The FBI didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Bloomberg News wasn’t able to verify the report on McCabe’s plans.
The move follows the reassignment, also reported by the Post, of the FBI’s general counsel.
Trump and some Republican lawmakers have increasingly argued there’s evidence that past officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including McCabe, were biased toward Democrat Hillary Clinton and against Trump in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.
“There would appear to be conflicts of interest” and it’s “better for everyone if he does step aside,” Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said of McCabe on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray is considering replacing McCabe with David Bowdich, the bureau’s third-ranking official, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the situation. Trump chose Wray to head the FBI after dismissing James Comey in May,
Trump is “very pleased to have Chris Wray now running the FBI,” Marc Short, Trump’s legislative affairs director, said on “Fox News Sunday.” Short denied that the president’s assertions of bias at the FBI were intended to undermine the current investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and whether anyone close to Trump assisted in that effort.
It’s “important to segregate and separate that from the special counsel because the White House has cooperated in every way with that investigation, and after millions and millions of dollars no collusion has been proven,” Short said.
But Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican critic of Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week” that it “puts us in peril” if the president continues to undermine the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation. Flake and Sen. Bernie Sanders both warned Trump against pardoning former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or other former aides who’ve been indicted by Mueller.
“To say the least it would be provoking a constitutional crisis,” Sanders of Vermont, who ran against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
McCabe’s tenure has become entangledin politically charged controversies, including the investigation into Clinton’s use of private email when she was secretary of state, and the ongoing criminal probe into Russian interference.
Most recently, House Republicans demanded to know what discussions McCabe might have had in 2016 with two FBI officials who exchanged text messages critical of Trump. One of them referred to a meeting in “Andy’s office” where they discussed “that there’s no way” Trump would be elected but “we can’t take that risk.”
Republicans have suggested, without proof, that this may have spawned an action plan for the FBI to exploit a dossier of unverified allegations against Trump compiled by a former British spy and financed largely by Clinton’s campaign.
McCabe also came under Republican criticism in 2016 when he helped oversee the Clinton email investigation even though his wife had accepted donations from Democratic political organizations for an unsuccessful election bid in 2015 to the Virginia state senate.
The president returned to that narrative on Saturday: “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 said on Twitter.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is conducting a broad investigation into how the department and FBI have handled recent matters, including the Clinton investigation. McCabe’s activities have been under scrutiny by the inspector general as well.