Former FBI official Andrew McCabe sues over his firing, says he was ousted to satisfy Trump's 'unlawful whims'



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In his first public appearance since Comey’s firing, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told a Senate panel that the FBI plans to continue their investigation into whether there was any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was fired just hours before his scheduled retirement last year, filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Justice Department officials of unjustly demoting and then terminating him to cater to President Donald Trump’s “unlawful whims.”

McCabe said he was demoted in January 2018 and fired two months later because he refused to cave in to Trump’s demands for loyalty. McCabe’s removal was part of the president’s “unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove” career law enforcement officials he deemed to be his political opponents, according to the 48-page complaint filed in federal court. 

McCabe, who was a frequent target of angry presidential tweets calling for his removal and attacking him for his wife’s political activities, accused former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray of serving as “Trump’s personal enforcers rather than the nation’s highest law enforcement officials, catering to Trump’s unlawful whims instead of honoring their oaths to uphold the Constitution.”

In the lawsuit, which names Attorney General William Barr, Wray, the FBI and the Justice Department as defendants, McCabe is asking a judge to find his demotion and firing unlawful. He is also alternatively asking for relief so he can retire as he had originally intended — with his full pension, health insurance and other retirement benefits. 

The Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment. 

McCabe is the second former high-ranking law enforcement official to file a lawsuit this week accusing the Justice Department and the FBI of unjust firing carried out on the orders of a vengeful president. Former FBI supervisor Peter Strzok, who was fired after a succession of text messages intensely critical of Trump, sued Tuesday claiming his removal was a result of a “pressure” campaign waged by Trump.

McCabe was fired in the midst of a review into the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. In a statement announcing McCabe’s firing, then Attorney General Sessions said the deputy FBI director was removed after an “extensive and fair” probe of alleged misconduct, which concluded that he had made “an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions. Trump applauded the decision, calling it “a great day for democracy.”

McCabe said Trump frequently singled him out during the 2016 presidential election, when the then-Republican candidate attacked him because of his wife’s alleged ties to Clinton, Trump’s rival. McCabe’s wife had unsuccessfully run for state Senate as a Democrat in Virginia. Trump had seized on a donation Jill McCabe received from a political action committee tied with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally. 

Trump also accused McCabe of mishandling the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Internal FBI documents made public in January 2018 stated that McCabe did not oversee the Clinton investigation while his wife was running for office, and that McCabe had no conflicts of interest. 

McCabe’s abrupt termination came after he had already announced his intention to resign and days before his retirement benefits would have set in. The lawsuit says the firing harmed McCabe’s reputation and dramatically reduced his retirement benefits and was motivated by Trump’s personal desire to punish McCabe “for his refusal to pledge partisan allegiance” to the president. 

The lawsuit says Trump, whom it notably said won the presidency “despite losing the popular vote,” continued attacking McCabe after the election and sought to have him fired in 2017, frequently making public statements about his perceived political affiliations and biases. In a December 2017 tweet, the president called out McCabe for donations made to his wife’s campaign by Clinton allies.

The same day, Trump tweeted: “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits.” The lawsuit says the tweet was a threat and shows the president’s desire to have McCabe fired before he could retire with full benefits. 

The lawsuit says Wray, who had replaced former FBI director James Comey, told McCabe in January 2018 about his demotion without explaining the reasons for it. In the next two months, while McCabe was on leave until he became eligible to retire, officials “subjected” him to “expedited disciplinary proceedings” as a response to pressure from the president, the lawsuit alleges. 

Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Christal Hayes

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