March 17 (UPI) -- Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has been fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, less than two days before McCabe was scheduled to retire.
Sessions released a statement just prior to 10 p.m. Friday announcing that McCabe's 21-year employment at the agency was being terminated following recommendations from both the Justice Department's inspector general and the FBI office that handles discipline.
Sessions said officials determined "that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor -- including under oath -- on multiple occasions."
"The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability," he said. "I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately."
The firing was recommended by the FBI's discipline office after the Justice Department's inspector general investigation determined McCabe had authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to the media about an investigation related to Hillary Clinton and subsequently misled investigators about his role in the matter.
McCabe stepped down as FBI deputy director earlier this year after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was briefed on the inspector general's probe, although he remained an employee of the agency. He was scheduled to retire just over 24 hours after the announcement of his termination, and the firing is expected to prevent him from collecting much of his retirement benefits.
McCabe, whose attorney said he learned of the firing from media reports, characterized his firing as an attempt to undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller's probe into whether President Donald Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
"Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey," he said in a statement just after midnight Saturday.
"The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG's focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens. Thursday's comments from the White House are just the latest example of this."
Trump applauded McCabe's firing on Twitter.
"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI -- A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!" the president wrote.
It is possible McCabe could try to claim to claim his pension package by mounting a legal challenge to his firing.
"This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said in his statement. "It is part of this administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the special counsel's work."
The former deputy director had been a frequent target of Trump's ire since he assumed the role of acting director following Comey's firing. He publicly contradicted the administration's assertions that Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file FBI agents.
Trump suggested McCabe had acted from a place of partisan interest to help protect Clinton from prosecution during the presidential campaign.
"It is well documented that he has had some very troubling behavior and by most accounts a bad actor," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.
Michael R. Bromwich, McCabe's attorney, characterized the comments as "vile and defamatory."
The attorney said he had "never before seen the type of rush to judgment -- and rush to summary punishment -- that we have witnessed in this case."
He said Sanders' statements were "quite clearly designed to put inappropriate pressure on the attorney general to act accordingly."
"This intervention by the White House in the DOJ disciplinary process is unprecedented, deeply unfair, and dangerous," Bromwich said.
"The timing appears cruel and a cave that compromised DOJ independence to please an increasingly erratic President who should've played no role here," Holder tweeted. "This is dangerous."