While McCabe’s decision to leave is surely to please President Donald Trump, who has frequently attacked the deputy director on Twitter, the White House has signaled that it did not have anything to do with him leaving the agency.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was not involved with McCabe’s departure despite the administration having “some concerns” with his work.
Some reports suggest McCabe, who served as the head of the FBI after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, had simply accrued enough paid-time-off to be able to leave the FBI ahead of his previously announced retirement date in March.
Trump himself seemed to recognize that McCabe would be leaving the agency in March when he tweeted in December that the deputy director was “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.”
However, the New York Times reported on Monday that McCabe felt pressure to leave the agency from newly-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump to replace Comey. Axios reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had told Wray to have a “fresh start” by firing high ranking members of the agency, including McCabe.
Trump tweeted in July, asking why Sessions has not fired McCabe.
McCabe could also have left the agency ahead of a forthcoming report from the inspector general into the FBI and Department of Justice’s handling of its investigation in Hillary Clinton‘s private email server. The Times reports that Wray “raised concerns” about the report recently, and suggested that McCabe move to another position because of it.
A final reason, which would add to a political firestorm, could be the deputy director’s departure has something to do with the House Intelligence Committee’s memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
The memo has been at the center of controversy and conspiracy theories for more than a week and on Monday night the committee voted, along party lines, to release it, giving Trump five days to decide whether to make it public.
The memo reportedly alleges that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page during the 2016 election using the so-called Steele dossier. Democrats have called Nunes’ memo “rife with factual inaccuracies” and says it cherry picks facts to make a partisan argument.
Nunes’ memo is based on classified documents that would not be released alongside it, making it essentially a summation of the documents through the lens of Republican partisanship. Democrats created a memo in response to Nunes’, but the House did not vote to release it.
It’s possible that Wray saw something in the memo that led to McCabe leaving the department, however there is no evidence of that.