FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — a frequent target of President Trump’s ire dating back to the 2016 presidential election — is stepping down from that job as he nears the date in March when he can retire with full pension benefits, according to people familiar with the matter.
McCabe’s departure has been expected for some time, though the exact date was uncertain. The Washington Post reported in December that he planned to retire in March.
At that time, people close to McCabe said he would probably use accrued vacation time to get him to the retirement date, prompting an angry response from Trump on Twitter.
“FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!,” the president fumed.
The exact date of McCabe’s departure from FBI headquarters had been unknown, but FBI staff had expected his departure around this time, as he moved closer to his retirement eligibility date.
People close to the matter confirmed that McCabe will still formally retire in March, but is leaving the deputy director position now, and plans to use accrued leave to fill out his remaining time at the FBI. On paper, he will still be an FBI employee until March, but in reality, he has left the building and is not expected back for any work, these people said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday that the president “wasn’t part of this decision-making process.”
McCabe, 49, rose quickly through the ranks of the FBI as a counterterrorism supervisor, playing a key role in reorganizing how the U.S. government interrogates international terrorism suspects. Partly because of his pedigree, his tenure as deputy director was sometimes marred by internal tensions between the criminal investigative side of the FBI and the national security branch.
David Bowdich, a senior FBI official who led the agency’s response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack, is expected to serve as the next deputy director, according to people familiar with the plans.
McCabe has been a lightning rod in the political battles surrounding special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian agents to interfere in the 2016 presidential race.
Last week, The Post reported that after James B. Comey was fired in May 2017 and McCabe assumed the director’s job on an acting basis, the president asked him in a private discussion whom he had voted for in the presidential election. McCabe responded that he had not voted, according to several current and former U.S. officials.
McCabe ran the FBI for three turbulent months last year, until Christopher A. Wray was confirmed by the Senate as the next director of the bureau.
Trump’s dislike of McCabe dates back to October 2016, when news stories revealed McCabe’s wife had run as a Democrat for the Virginia state legislature, aided with nearly $500,000 in donations from the political action committee of then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close ally of Hillary Clinton, and that McCabe had gone on to oversee probes involving Clinton.
After revelations that a stalled probe into the Clinton Foundation had led to infighting among FBI and Justice Department personnel — a feud in which McCabe played a role — McCabe recused himself from Clinton-related matters days before the election.
In the final days of the campaign, Trump often singled McCabe out for criticism,
In recent months, McCabe has been harshly criticized by congressional Republicans who challenge the FBI’s rationale for opening the Russia probe back in July 2016.
One of those critics, Rep. Matt Gaetz, cheered McCabe’s move Monday, calling it “a step forward. The past several weeks and months have seen worrisome evidence of bias and wrongdoing at the FBI come to light.”
Former attorney general Eric Holder called McCabe “a dedicated public servant who has served this country well.” Holder, a Democrat, denounced “bogus attacks on the FBI and DOJ to distract attention from a legitimate criminal inquiry.”
The political scrutiny surrounding McCabe intensified in December, when The Post reported that his senior adviser, Lisa Page, had been engaged in a romantic relationship with Peter Strzok, a senior FBI agent, and the two exchanged anti-Trump, pro-Clinton text messages while they were immersed in ongoing investigations about the two presidential candidates.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is still investigating the conduct of McCabe, Page, Strzok, Comey, and others in their handling of the probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, said the group “thanks Andrew McCabe for his service, and his support of the association and our charitable efforts.’’