Jeff Sessions may have saved himself — for now — by firing FBI's Andrew McCabe

Key Points
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday evening, two days before he was slated to retire — and become eligible for full pension benefits.
  • The move was applauded by the one person Jeff Sessions needed to please the most: President Donald Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to the National Association of Attorneys General 2018 Winter Meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' move to fire former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday evening, two days before he was slated to retire, came swiftly on Twitter.

McCabe, who had been the deputy director of the FBI, took over the agency on an interim basis after President Donald Trump fired James Comey last year, but stepped down in January.

High profile critics, including former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and former Attorney General Eric Holder, took to Twitter to shame Sessions for his decision.



In a statement, Sessions blamed McCabe's dismissal on reports from both the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General, and the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility. They concluded that McCabe had made "an unauthorized disclosure to the news media" and "lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions."

The firing may deprive McCabe of his full pension benefits. In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, he said that "the idea that I was dishonest is just wrong," suggesting "this is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness."

McCabe is expected to be a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

McCabe's lawyer and a former DOJ inspector general, Michael R. Bromwhich, decried the action in a statement.

"I have been involved in Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) disciplinary matters since 1994. I have never before seen the type of rush to judgment – and rush to summary punishment – that we have witnessed in this case.

"The result of this deplorable rush to judgment is to terminate Mr. McCabe before his long-anticipated retirement and deny him of the full pension and retirement benefits he would have otherwise earned through his 21 years of devoted service to the FBI and this country. This is simply not the way such matters are generally handled in the DOJ or the FBI. It is deeply disturbing."

However, Sessions' decision to fire McCabe appeared to please one very important person: His boss, President Donald Trump, given that Sessions has been on shaky ground with the president.

The Attorney General is considered one of several Cabinet members who could be on the chopping block as the president shakes up his cabinet. Ever since the AG recused himself from the Russia investigation, which continues to dog the president, Trump has used Sessions as a punching bag.

The president has frequently taken to Twitter to publicly excoriate his Attorney General.



On Saturday, however, Trump tweeted with a very different tone.


With this move, Sessions may have saved himself. At least for now.

"This was a cynical ploy by Sessions to prove his loyalty and buy himself some space and time," says Chris Lu, former Obama Administration official and now senior fellow at the University of Virginia Miller Center. "However, Trump requires that loyalty be demonstrated every day, and as long as the Mueller investigation continues, Session will always be on thin ice."