News that the FBI’s embattled deputy director, Andrew McCabe, is stepping down broke suddenly today. McCabe has long planned to retire in March, and until recently, FBI Director Chris Wray has protected McCabe, resisting pressure to remove him prematurely. That all changed, however, in recent days—apparently because of something in a forthcoming inspector general report. As the New York Times describes it:
In a recent conversation, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report examining the actions of Mr. McCabe and other senior F.B.I. officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. In that discussion, according to one former law enforcement official close to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion.
Instead, the former official said, Mr. McCabe chose to leave.
I don’t know McCabe personally (I think we’ve met once briefly, but I’m not sure even of that). I obviously have no idea what concerns Wray may have about any forthcoming inspector general report. So I cannot today venture any strong statement about whether some inspector general finding justifies Wray’s shift from defending McCabe to removing him.
I will, therefore, say only this. Andrew McCabe has served the public honorably and for a long time. Over the past year, he has served under what must be indescribably difficult conditions—conditions that simply have no parallel for a career law enforcement officer in the history of this republic. Until we see actual evidence that he has done something inappropriate, he certainly deserves the benefit of every doubt.
We will have an opportunity to evaluate both his conduct—and Wray’s. An inspector general finding involves a certain amount of due process. People criticized in inspector general reports get the chance to review those reports, to push back, and to write written responses.
So I’ll wait to see what the Justice Department inspector general has to say about Andrew McCabe and what McCabe has to say in response. And I’ll decide at that point how to evaluate Wray’s action in removing him.