Michael Thielen / Flickr Trump reportedly used similar tactics to...
Michael Thielen / Flickr

Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is three days away from retirement. However, odds that he’s ever going to see his pension would seem to be small.

Officials at the FBI have recommended that McCabe be fired, potentially upending his plans to retire on Sunday. The precise allegations against McCabe remain unclear, but he has been accused of a lack of candor during a review by the Justice Department inspector general into decisions made at the FBI in advance of the 2016 election.

Those accusations are related to incidents in which McCabe gave permission for agents working under his direction to talk to a reporter about the FBI’s interest in the Clinton Foundation. McCabe was also at the head of the team that took emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop to then Director James Comey and insisted he reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email just ten days before the election. McCabe’s actions gave the impression that the FBI continued to harbor suspicions about Clinton, and contributed directly—and according to polls, critically—to Trump’s victory.

The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify… At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

The inspector general’s report on McCabe is likely enough to justify his firing. And his contribution to putting Trump in office makes it hard to have much sympathy for McCabe. If it wasn’t for one little factor, he’d likely be getting set to walk away from this with the FBI equivalent of a dishonorable discharge. But there is that one thing …

If Andrew McCabe has a case to make, it’s that Donald Trump hounded him from office, and attempted to influence others to take away the pension McCabe earned over a twenty-year career.

Trump appears to have been suspicious of McCabe from the outset because he was 1) not appointed by Trump and 2) had a wife who ran for office as a Democrat.

McCabe’s wife did not actually get money from the Clinton campaign as Trump has repeatedly stated. As a Democrat running for office, she got some contributions from some people and organizations that also supported Clinton … which was enough for Trump.

But the bigger reason that Donald Trump has made frequent, public attacks against McCabe is the same reason he attacked James Comey, Rod Rosenstein and Jefferson Sessions: He has refused to end the Russia investigation. More than that, McCabe started off on the wrong foot with Trump by spoiling his revenge on Comey.

The day after he fired James Comey as director of the FBI, a furious President Donald Trump called the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, demanding to know why Comey had been allowed to fly on an FBI plane from Los Angeles back to Washington after he was dismissed, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it, three people familiar with the call recounted to NBC News.

The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.

Since Donald Trump’s ego bruises like a peach, he made it a point to attack McCabe at every opportunity.

And of course, Trump didn’t hesitate to share unsubstantiated rumors from his friends on Fox.

Now it seems likely that Trump will get to rub his hands together and cackle over his revenge on McCabe, as he watches one of the guys who put him in office march away disgraced, without a pension, and with few legal options.

Lawyers say McCabe’s legal options are few because most FBI employees have little legal recourse over attempts to punish them over alleged misconduct. …

If McCabe is fired and wants to challenge that decision, his options are limited. Most federal civil service workers who believe they’re being subjected to excessive punishment can protest to an obscure agency called the Merit System Protection Board and then to court, but for decades Congress has given the FBI and its management more leeway.

But McCabe does have one thing in his corner—the public evidence that Donald Trump pressured his superiors to hustle him out the door. In addition to Sessions, Trump also leaned on his newly appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray to get rid of McCabe. Though the Inspector General’s office is supposed to be nonpartisan, McCabe may be able to make a case that the recommendations that he be fired were generated, at least in part, by the pressure applied by Donald Trump. And since Sessions will make the final decision …

If McCabe does file a lawsuit, he seems certain to argue that his repeated taunting by Trump put Sessions under political pressure to carry out the firing, whether or not it was warranted, lawyers say.

Which would give McCabe at least a bit of a last laugh.

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