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Angus King calls McCabe’s firing days before retirement ‘mean-spirited’

Jacquelyn Martin | AP
Jacquelyn Martin | AP
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 7, 2018. King on Sunday questioned the Trump administration's decision to fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just 48 hours before his scheduled retirement.
By Christopher Burns, BDN Staff
Updated:

U.S. Sen. Angus King on Sunday questioned the Trump administration’s firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just two days ahead of his scheduled retirement, calling the move “mean-spirited.”

“My problem is the timing and the way it all worked,” King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It just seemed mean-spirited to come down on a guy within 48 hours of his scheduled retirement.”

[Republican senators push back against Trump on McCabe’s firing]

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe late Friday, saying in a statement that the Justice Department’s inspector general and the FBI’s disciplinary office found that “McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

McCabe, a 20-year bureau veteran who was set to retire with full benefits, will likely lose a significant portion of his retirement benefits as a result of his termination.

McCabe claimed in a statement to The Washington Post that he was being targeted because he was a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

“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. “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.”

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, announced Saturday afternoon that he has offered McCabe a job to work on election security in his office, “so that he can reach the needed length of service” to retire, according to The Washington Post.

“My offer of employment to Mr. McCabe is a legitimate offer to work on election security,” Pocan said in a statement. “Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy and both Republicans and Democrats should be concerned about election integrity.”

A spokeswoman for McCabe, Melissa Schwartz, didn’t immediately rule out a job with one of the most liberal members of Congress, which might only need to last for a day or so for him to get his full retirement benefits: “We are considering all options.”

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, tweeted that he’d consider hiring McCabe, too.

It’s not immediately clear if getting fired from the FBI on a Friday and going to work on Capitol Hill on a Monday would solve McCabe’s problems for certain, though at least one former federal official with knowledge of retirement rules says it probably would.

McCabe’s team is confident that he had at least 20 years of law enforcement work under his belt — defined as carrying a weapon or supervising people who do — which made him eligible to retire on his 50th birthday on Sunday, with full retirement benefits.

With those 20 years, he would need to just go to work with the federal government for another day or so in any job he pleases, whether that’s as a election security analyst for a Wisconsin congressman or a typist for a day, to get full benefits, the former official told The Washington Post. The job doesn’t matter so much as the fact that he’s working within the federal government with the same retirement benefits until or after his 50th birthday.

Trump a McCabe critic

President Donald Trump has frequently been a vocal critic of McCabe, suggesting he was biased in support of Hillary Clinton. Trump also has vented about McCabe’s wife who ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Virginia Legislature and received donations from a political action committee run by a close Clinton ally. Trump reportedly asked McCabe during an Oval Office meeting last May who he voted for in the presidential election, according to The Washington Post.

Prominent Republicans also pushed back against McCabe’s firing on Sunday, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “he should have been allowed to finish through the weekend.”

King questioned the timing of McCabe’s dismissal before the inspector general’s report about his conduct was made public and whether the Trump administration pressured the Justice Department to take action against him.

“It was clearly rushed,” King said. “The whole thing appears … to have been compressed in order to take vengeance on this guy for some reason, and I don’t think that’s the way we should be governing.”

King said it’s hard to know whether McCabe’s firing was appropriate without the release of the inspector general’s report, but added that if McCabe had violated the FBI’s code of conduct, then “some punishment was necessary.”

[Trump rails against Mueller investigation, dismisses McCabe’s notes as ‘Fake Memos’]

Trump took aim at McCabe on Sunday after The Washington Post reported he kept memos detailing his encounters with the president, much like his former boss James Comey did.

“Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.

Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, on Saturday called on the Justice Department to end Mueller’s investigation, and Trump vented on Twitter about the investigation, writing “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”

[Angus King says it’s ‘premature’ to rule out collusion with Russia]

King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing its own investigation into Russian meddling, said it would be a “huge mistake” for Trump to fire Mueller, whose investigation has already netted more than a dozen indictments and three guilty pleas from former Trump associates.

“The president keeps saying there’s no story here, they didn’t do anything wrong. If they didn’t do anything wrong, why are they going to such extreme lengths to undermine this investigation,” he said.

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