By mid-December 2017, before McCabe was set to testify behind closed doors with the House intelligence committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., alluded to McCabe's rocky standing.
"I'll be a little bit surprised if he's still an employee of the FBI this time next week," said Gowdy, who is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee which has oversight responsibility for the bureau, in a Dec. 15 interview with Fox News.
McCabe served as the acting director of the FBI for three months in 2017, after Trump abruptly fired James Comey, and before the current director, Christopher Wray, was sworn in. McCabe made news in a congressional hearing in May by contradicting Trump.
The White House had said Trump fired Comey because he had lost the confidence of the FBI's rank-and-file agents and workers — but McCabe, when asked, said that was not so.
"Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day," McCabe told lawmakers soon after the president had ousted Comey.
Behind the scenes, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was continuing to investigate Comey and McCabe and the bureau's handling of an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The IG's office drafted a report that is believed to include the allegation that McCabe lacked candor with investigators about his contacts with a Wall Street Journal reporter. In addition, the statement from Sessions late Friday said the IG's office and the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility also faulted McCabe for "an unauthorized disclosure to the news media."
Accordingly, the OPR recommended that McCabe lose his job.
People in McCabe's camp said earlier this week that he has an explanation for any inconsistencies in his account of the conversations with the journalist and that in each instance, he went back and corrected the record, often citing the chaos around him and the FBI at the time. He had followed up with investigators as part of the Justice Department process.
In his statement Friday, McCabe explained events this way:
"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."
McCabe added that his contacts with the reporter were "not a secret," known to others at the FBI at the time including then-Director Comey, typical of the exchanges with the media he regularly oversaw as deputy director and the kind of work he continued under Director Wray.
"The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth," McCabe also said in his statement. "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."
In January, when Wray attempted to move McCabe into another job to limit the FBI's embarrassment when the IG report became public, McCabe abruptly announced his retirement. His plan was to use up accumulated leave he was due before his previously scheduled retirement date this month.
Trump and his supporters group McCabe with whom they call other bad actors inside the FBI, including two employees who exchanged text messages critical of Trump in 2016. That revelation also has embarrassed the FBI and fueled critics' accusations that people inside the bureau abused their power to target Trump out of personal animus.
A raw deal?
McCabe's supporters, led by Comey, have said before Friday's firing that McCabe has been badly mistreated. "Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on," the former FBI director wrote on Twitter in late January when McCabe announced his retirement. "He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well."