The FBI office that handles employee discipline has recommended firing the bureau's former deputy director over allegations that he authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to a reporter and misled investigators when asked about it — though Justice Department officials are still reviewing the matter and have not come to a final decision, a person familiar with the case said.
The recommendation from the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility is likely to add fuel to the political fire surrounding former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down from his post earlier this year but technically remains an FBI employee.
McCabe was hoping to retire in just days, when he becomes eligible for his full benefits. If he is fired, he could lose his retirement benefits. President Donald Trump has long made McCabe a particular target of his ire, and the recommendation to fire the former No. 2 FBI official could give him new ammunition.
Through a representative, McCabe declined to comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman said: "The Department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated. That process includes recommendations from career employees and no termination decision is final until the conclusion of that process. We have no personnel announcements at this time."
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has for some time been working on a report that blasts McCabe for allowing two high-ranking bureau officials to sit down with the Wall Street Journal as the news outlet prepared a story in 2016 on an investigation into Hillary Clinton's family foundation, then misleading the inspector general's team about his actions. A person familiar with the matter said Horowitz's findings are what sparked the Office of Professional Responsibility's recommendation, which was first reported by the New York Times. Horowitz's report has not yet been released.
McCabe, 49, had long been expected to retire on March 18 though he abruptly left his post after his boss, Director Christopher Wray, was told of what Horowitz had found.
The situation now seems fraught for all involved. If the Justice Department does not move on the recommendation, conservatives might view officials there as unfairly protecting McCabe.
But if the FBI fires McCabe with just days to go before his retirement, it could be viewed as bending to the will of a vindictive president. Trump has suggested McCabe was biased in favor of Clinton, pointing out that McCabe's wife, who ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Virginia Legislature, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the political action committee of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally. The president said in December that McCabe was "racing the clock to retire with full benefits."
The inspector general has since last January been investigating the FBI and Justice Department's handling of the probe into Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, which is separate from the foundation probe. McCabe represents but a piece of that work.