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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

More pressure on Trump as FBI deputy director plans exit

Andrew McCabe, 49, has served as the No 2 official at the FBI since February 2016

Andrew McCabe at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Andrew McCabe at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe plans to retire in a few months after coming under blistering criticism from some congressional Republicans, according to the Washington Post.

Mr 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 Post reported, citing sources it didn’t identify.

Bloomberg wasn’t immediately able to verify the report, and the FBI didn’t respond to a request for comment. But president Donald Trump jumped on the report after returning from a round of golf in Florida with PGA professionals Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and others.

Mr McCabe’s tenure has become entangled in recent years in politically charged controversies, including the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of private email when she was secretary of State, and the ongoing criminal probe into whether Trump or his associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election campaign.

Most recently, House Republicans demanded to know what discussions Mr 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 that was compiled by a former British spy and financed largely by Mrs Clinton’s campaign.

The officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, are no longer part of the investigation, which is now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mr 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 FBI said in a statement at the time that Mr McCabe “played no role” in his wife’s campaign “and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind.”

“He ought to be replaced. And I’ve said that before and I’ve said it to people who can do it,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told reporters this month.

“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 Saturday on Twitter.

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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. Mr McCabe’s activities have been under scrutiny by the inspector general as well.

Mr McCabe joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1996 and held management positions in the Counterterrorism divison and the Washington field office.

He became the FBI’s acting director after James Comey was dismissed by Trump in May, and served in that role until Aug. 2 when a new director, Christopher Wray, took charge.

Mr Wray recently reassigned another top official, FBI general counsel James Baker, to a different role within the agency, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Mr Comey made a rare comment on the move, hinting in a Twitter post at the motivations behind Baker’s change in role.

“Sadly, we are now at a point in our political life when anyone can be attacked for partisan gain,” Mr Comey wrote late Friday. “James Baker, who is stepping down as FBI General Counsel, served our country incredibly well for 25 years and deserves better. He is what we should all want our public servants to be.”