FBI Deputy Director Andrew “Andy” McCabe will serve as the acting director of the FBI after Jim Comey was fired Tuesday by President Donald Trump.
“By operation of law and effective immediately, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe assumed the position of Acting Director of the FBI,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a memo to FBI employees obtained by CNN. “As you well know, the FBI is an exceptional law enforcement and intelligence agency. It is made so by you, the devoted men and women who work tirelessly to keep our coutnry safe. Thank your for your steadfast dedication and commitment during this time of transition.”
McCabe was appointed to the deputy director position in January 2016 by Comey, according to a FBI press release.
“Andy’s 19 years of experience, combined with his vision, judgment, and ability to communicate make him a perfect fit for this job,” Comey said in a statement at the time. In the deputy role, McCabe oversees “all FBI domestic and international investigative and intelligence activities and will serve as acting director in the director’s absence.”
McCabe, a 49-year-old father of two from Virginia, is a controversial figure for Republicans, as questions have been raised about his involvement in the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia election probe because his wife, Dr. Jane McCabe, has run for office as a Democrat and has ties to top Clinton donors and allies. Many Trump supporters on Twitter are calling for McCabe to be fired along with Comey.
A search for a new director began immediately after Comey was fired, the White House said. The new FBI director will need to receive approval from the Senate.
“The FBI is one of our Nation’s most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Trump said in a statement announcing Comey’s firing.
A senior administration official told NBC News’ Mark Halperin that Trump met with McCabe “in the Oval Office this evening for about 30 minutes.”
The Daily Beast, citing a federal law enforcement source, reports that rumors “are flying” that McCabe could soon resign or be fired, within the next few weeks.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McCabe Says His Focus Has Been on the ‘Inside’ of the FBI & Their Work ‘Not Talked About in the Newspaper’
Andy McCabe was named as the deputy director of the FBI on January 29, 2016, according to a press release. He replaced Deputy Director Mark Giuliano on February 1, 2016, after Giuliano retired following 28 years of service.
McCabe had previously served as the assistant director in charge of the Washington, D.C. field office, and became the associate deputy director in July 2015, the FBI says.
His role as deputy director put him in charge of investigations ranging from terrorism and organized crime to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, but he told the Los Angeles Times in May 2016 he likes to stay behind the scenes.
“My focus is on the inside [of the FBI] and all the work we do that is not talked about in the newspaper, on CNN, on the Hill,” he said. “My focus is on the stuff we have done for 100 years and do every day that people never hear about.”
McCabe called terrorism his top priority.
“That is the scariest thing for me right now,” he told the Times. “It’s the broadening and intensity of the terrorism threat, the crowd-sourcing of terrorism, the flood of propaganda, the enormous number of folks who have become swept up in that propaganda.”
McCabe recently made a trip to India to speak with intelligence officials there, the Indian Express reports. He spoke to the Indian newspaper about the fight against terrorism, and also commented on the “politically fraught” investigations the FBI has found itself undertaking.
McCabe told the newspaper the FBI is “very fortunate in having very, very clear legal authority, a very clear position within the federal government, and an entirely professional cadre of men and women.”
McCabe, a career civil servant, said there is only one political appointee in the FBI.
“For 109 years, we have maintained our commitment to do our job professionally, competently, and apolitically,” McCabe told Indian Express. “We pursue every case, whether it’s a counter-terrorism matter, or a counter-intelligence matter, or a criminal matter, or a public corruption matter, in exactly the same way: we follow the facts wherever they lead us.”
McCabe was in the news in February 2017 when it was reported he and White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus might have broken rules regarding communications between White House and Justice Department officials during a conversation they had on February 15, Time reported.
According to the report, McCabe was speaking to Priebus on an unrelated intelligence issue, the day after reports emerged in the New York times that Trump’s campaign associates had contacts with Russian intelligence agents before the election. Senior administration officials told reporters that McCabe told Priebus the Times story is “BS,” according to Time.
Priebus then asked McCabe how they could push back, saying the White House is “getting crushed” by the story.” McCabe later called Priebus to say, “We’d love to help but we can’t get into the position of making statements on every story,” Time reports.
2. Republicans Have Questioned His Impartiality in the Clinton Email & Russia Probes Because of His Wife’s Ties to Democratic Politicians
McCabe has faced questions from Republicans about his impartiality in his oversight role in the investigations into the Clinton email server and the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election because of his wife’s ties to Democratic politicians. Dr. Jill McCabe made a failed bid for state senate in Virginia in 2015.
He is under investigation by the FBI’s inspector general for his involvement in the Clinton email investigation, according to Fox News.
In October 2016, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, sent a letter to McCabe asking him about his wife’s ties to Clinton allies, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. He said there are “outstanding questions” about those ties.
The Wall Street Journal reported the story about the contributions on October 24, leading to the Chaffetz letter.
In the letter, Chaffetz said, “News accounts have raised questions about a potential conflict of interest related to donations from the political action committee of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime fundraiser for the Clintons, to the state Senate campaign of your wife, Dr. Jill McCabe.”
Jill McCabe accepted about $700,000 in contributions from Clinton allies facilitated by McAuliffe.
“It seems like an obscene amount of money for a losing race,” Chaffetz told the Washington Post.
“Some of the money raised from Clinton associates, such as Doug Band and Robert Johnson, was donated prior to the commencement of the FBI’s investigation,” Chaffetz wrote. “However, a significant amount was donated after the FBI had initiated its investigation and begun a meeting with Secretary Clinton’s attorneys in August 2015.”
Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, sent a letter on May 2 to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asking for an intensification of the investigation into McCabe.
“The FBI and Department of Justice cannot expect to maintain the public’s trust when there are so many outstanding questions and apparent conflicts of interest in consequential investigations,” Grassley wrote. “The American people need and deserve a better accounting of how investigations are conducted and whether politics have affected an inquiry. The FBI has yet to adequately explain the steps taken to fix these issues since I first raised concerns over six months ago. It’s time they were addressed.”
Virginia State Senator Richard Black, who defeated Jill McCabe, called for Andrew McCabe to resign in October 2016, saying, “The last eight years of Democrat rule led to politicization and distrust of the nation’s leading law enforcement agency — the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to the Washington Post.
Black took to Twitter after Comey’s firing to attack McCabe:
And the state Republican party filed a Freedom of Information request in an effort to look into communications among members of Jill McCabe’s campaign.
“Given the chance to put a few favors in the bank at the FBI for Clinton Inc., Governor McAuliffe jumped at the chance,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck told the Washington Post. “The fact that both he and Hillary Clinton fell under FBI investigation proves just what a wise investment this was.”
McCabe also faced questions about his role in the Russia investigation, over the same issues.
Grassley sent a letter on March 28, 2017, to then-Director Comey, saying McCabe taking part in the investigation “raises the appearance a conflict of interest in light of his wife’s ties with Clinton’s associates” and asking whether McCabe should recuse himself.
The FBI said in a statement that when McCabe’s wife considered a political campaign, he “consulted with top FBI headquarters and field office ethics officers for guidance, including briefings on the Hatch Act, to prevent against any actual or potential conflict-of-interest, in the event she decided to go forward.”
According to the statement, when she decided to run, “McCabe and FBI lawyers implemented a system of recusal from all FBI investigative matters involving Virginia politics, a process followed for the remainder of her campaign. During the campaign, he played no role, attended no events, and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind.”
Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings has called the attacks on McCabe politically motivated.
“This latest letter really goes off the deep end in terms of promoting Donald Trump’s debunked conspiracy theories and waging offensive political attacks against honorable public servants,” Cummings told the Washington Post in October 2016. “It is a shame that even a dime of taxpayer funds is being spent on this latest desperate attempt to help Trump at the polls.”
3. Trump Talked at a Rally About $700,000 Given to McCabe’s Wife’s Campaign by Democrats
President Donald Trump raised the issue of the nearly $700,000 in contributions given to McCabe’s wife during a campaign stop in Florida on two occasions in October 2016.
“One of the closest people to Hillary Clinton, with longstanding ties to her and husband — the closest person, I can tell you that … gave more than $675,000 to the campaign of the wife of a top FBI official who oversaw the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s illegal email server,” Trump said at the Sanford rally, according to Politifact. “In other words, the man who was in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton accepted essentially from Hillary Clinton $675,000 that went to his wife.”
“Never happened before. Never happened. Not in this country’s history,” Trump said. “This is a disgrace. And she shouldn’t be allowed to run for president. She shouldn’t be allowed. She’s a crook.”
According to Politifact, the timing of contributions to McCabe’s wife do not line up with the timing of the Clinton investigation:
Trump is correct that hefty donations were given from a Clinton ally to a candidate whose husband was an FBI official … At the time of the contribution, the candidate’s husband was not directly involved in the FBI probe of Clinton’s email server, according to the FBI. The bureau says that by the time he had some oversight role in the Clinton investigation, the election involving his wife had been over for three months. Meanwhile, the decision not charge Clinton was a recommendation made by the director of the FBI. Trump’s statement contains a small element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a completely different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
In March 2017, a Fox News report raised the question of whether Andrew McCabe failed to disclose the contributions in documents he filed with the Office of Government Ethics. He did not disclose his wife’s salary or those contributions in financial disclosure forms in July 2016. The FBI said in a statement that the form was in compliance with “applicable laws and regulations,” issuing a statement to Fox News:
The rules instructing filers how to complete the OGE 278e form are published by the independent Office of Government Ethics (OGE) in a document titled ‘The Public Financial Disclosure Form (July 2016).’ The form does not require that an employee spouse’s salary be disclosed; only the employer name and type of income required. Nor does the form require or contain a line for campaign contributions, which are not considered income. Rules governing campaign donations are overseen by the Federal Election Commission.
Each form submitted by an FBI employee to the OGE is certified by FBI’s chief ethics officer, who heads the Office of Integrity and Compliance. Mr. McCabe consulted with this office upon his wife’s decision to run for political office.”
But some still questioned whether it was ethical to leave the information about his wife off the document.
“If it’s not required, then why is there a spot on the form for spouse’s income?” retired FBI agent Jeff Danik said in an interview with Fox News. “Isn’t it particularly convenient that loopholes in the ethics law are used to eliminate reporting hundreds of thousands of donated dollars benefiting the spouse of one of the most powerful FBI executives, while at the same time those laws demand that every dime in earnings on a minor stock account be disclosed? That hardly seems transparent.”
4. He Started His Career in Organized Crime Investigating Russian Mobsters & Had Top Roles in Counterterrorism & National Security
Andy McCabe joined the FBI as a special agent in 1996, according to a press release from the FBI. Prior to becoming deputy director, McCabe was the associate deputy director, the third-highest rank in the FBI, for less than a year. He was previously he assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office.
According to the FBI, McCabe became a supervisory special agent on the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force in 2003, and the unit chief of FBI Headquarters in 2006. He was later moved into the assistant section chief for International Terrorism Operations Section I, which oversees the FBI’s counterterrorism investigations.
He became the assistant special agent in charge of the Washington field office’s counterterrorism division in 2008 and was the first director of the High-Value Interrogation Group in 2009, a team set up by President Obama. He also spent time as the executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch and as the assistant director of the FBI counterterrorism division.
While in the FBI’s New York Office, McCabe helped build cases against Russian mobsters, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was known as a “methodical investigator who assiduously worked to earn the trust of victims, and particularly, informants and witnesses,” according to fellow agents who spoke to the Times.
“He was the kind of guy who wants to make sure everything is done by the book,” Raymond Kerr, a former supervisor, told the newspaper “He was also very good with people.”
5. McCabe Went to Duke University Before Studying Law at Washington University in St. Louis
McCabe graduated from Duke University in 1990 before studying law at Washington University in St. Louis, according to a FBI press release. He practiced law for a private firm for three years before joining the FBI as a special agent in 1996. He had interned in the Justice Department’s legal division while in law school, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“I spent a lot of time reading agent reports, and I thought, ‘Boy, that would be a cool job,’” he told the Times. “On the civil side, it’s ultimately about people arguing about money. On our side, it’s about passion, violence and intrigue. That is the stuff that makes people tick.”
McCabe and his wife, Dr. Jill McCabe, live in Broadlands, Virginia. They have a son and a daughter. His wife is a pediatrician emergency physician at the Inova Loudon Hospital in Virginia.
“I’m running for Senate because I am inspired by the idea of making a greater impact in our community,” said Jill McCabe when she announced her run for office in 2015. “Healthcare, public policy and business are intersecting now more than ever. I believe that my experience as a health professional, a working mother and an education leader have helped prepare me to tackle the challenges facing the Commonwealth today. From affordable healthcare to full-day kindergarten, we have a responsibility to give our children the very best Virginia has to offer.”
McCabe lost the race against incumbent State Senator Dick Black by a margin of 25,898 to 23,544.