WASHINGTON (CNN) — Late Friday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe less than two days shy of his retirement. McCabe had been expected to retire this Sunday, on his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible to receive early retirement benefits.
McCabe, the former No. 2 at the FBI, will lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits because of the firing.
McCabe joined the bureau in New York in 1996 and rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming the deputy to then-FBI director James Comey in early 2016 and overseeing some of the most high-stakes investigations in the agency.
Along the way, he’s drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, whose top spokesman called McCabe a “bad actor” on Thursday, as well as the scrutiny of the Justice Department’s inspector general for his involvement in the bureau’s probes of Hillary Clinton.
On Wednesday, the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe should be fired as a result of claims in the DOJ watchdog report that he misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
On Thursday afternoon, McCabe sat down for several hours with Justice Department officials to plead his case, according to a person familiar with the meeting. McCabe stepped down as the FBI’s deputy director at the end of January and has been on leave since.
As a law enforcement officer covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, known as FERS, McCabe is set to receive an annual pension payout calculated at a special “enhanced” rate and available at the early age of 50.
“He put his life on the line,” said Kimberly Berry, a federal employment lawyer in Virginia. “The enhanced coverage is enhanced, because by its nature, it’s more rigorous: the career he had.”
Considering McCabe’s number of years at the agency and estimations of his high-level pay grade, formulas published by the US Office of Personnel Management for law enforcement officers show that his yearly payout could hit in the area of $60,000 each year.
Because of the firing, McCabe will be docked his pension until he hits another, later age milestone.
Experts disagree — and caution that predicting payouts is complicated given the complex federal system and each individual’s personal career particularities — but, per federal rules, McCabe may not be able to draw an annuity until a date ranging just shy of his 57th birthday, and as late as his 62nd. That could put the value of his uncollected pension in the realm of a half-million dollars.
On top of that, McCabe could also lose his law enforcement boost.
“What he would lose — and this is a lot of money — he would lose the enhanced benefits that law enforcement officers get,” said George Chuzi, an attorney who represents federal employees.
Under the rules of FERS, that means he could be left with the standard multiplier of 1% on top of his years of service, down from the 1.7% enhanced rate for law enforcement.
Former FBI officials tell CNN that McCabe could also lose out on future health care coverage in his retirement if he were to be fired before he turned 50, and the firing could be subject to litigation.
The “most significant ‘damage’ to a separated FBI employee is: loss of lifetime medical benefits for self and family,” tweeted CNN law enforcement analyst James A. Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent.
McCabe issued a lengthy and blistering statement about his firing Friday evening. It read:
“I have been an FBI Special Agent for over 21 years. I spent half of that time investigating Russian Organized Crime as a street agent and Supervisor in New York City. I have spent the second half of my career focusing on national security issues and protecting this country from terrorism. I served in some of the most challenging, demanding investigative and leadership roles in the FBI. And I was privileged to serve as Deputy Director during a particularly tough time.
For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President’s tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us.
The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.
The OIG investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request. The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth. During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.
But looking at that in isolation completely misses the big picture. The big picture is a tale of what can happen when law enforcement is politicized, public servants are attacked, and people who are supposed to cherish and protect our institutions become instruments for damaging those institutions and people.
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. 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.
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. 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.
I have always prided myself on serving my country with distinction and integrity, and I always encouraged those around me to do the same. Just ask them. To have my career end in this way, and to be accused of lacking candor when at worst I was distracted in the midst of chaotic events, is incredibly disappointing and unfair. But it will not erase the important work I was privileged to be a part of, the results of which will in the end be revealed for the country to see.
I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred.”
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