Another top ex-FBI official who was ousted after being targeted by President Trump has filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department challenging his removal.
A day after former FBI counter-intel head Peter Strzok sued the Justice Department over his firing, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe filed his own lawsuit Thursday alleging that his First Amendment and due process rights were violated in how the bureau removed him.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in March 2018 that he was removing McCabe just as McCabe was about to become eligible for his retirement benefits.
McCabe alleged in the lawsuit that Sessions and other FBI officials deviated from procedures within the bureau in order to fire him, under pressure from President Trump.
“Trump’s decision was motivated by his unconstitutional desire to punish Plaintiff for his refusal to pledge partisan allegiance to Trump, for Trump’s misperception of Plaintiff’s partisan affiliation, and for Plaintiff’s lawful exercise of his First Amendment-protected rights of expression and association,” McCabe alleged.
Much of the lawsuit runs through episodes of Trump’s hostility towards McCabe that were made already public in McCabe’s recent book and on the President’s own Twitter feed. Since the 2016 campaign, Trump has claimed that McCabe went easy on Hillary Clinton in the probe into her email server, while also bashing McCabe’s handling of the Russia investigation. Trump has accused McCabe of bias stemming from a campaign donation McCabe’s wife had received in a 2015 state senate race
(McCabe’s wife received the donation from a political group tied to Terry McAuliffe; McCabe did not take over the Clinton email probe until months after his wife lost the race and he cleared an ethics review before doing so.)
According to the lawsuit, Trump ramped up his calls for McCabe to be fired after McCabe, upon questioning by Trump, admitted to not voting for Trump in the 2016 election. The lawsuit alleged that FBI Director Chris Wray was instructed to fire McCabe as soon as Wray was sworn in.
“On or about this date, Sessions, acting at Trump’s urging, asked Defendant Wray to fire Plaintiff,” the lawsuit said. “Wray refused on the basis that he would not allow personnel decisions at the FBI to be politicized. Wray suggested that he would resign if Sessions continued to apply such pressure.”
When Sessions eventually removed McCabe, who at that point was already on pre-retirement leave from the FBI, the attorney general pointed to an inspector general report that found that McCabe had lacked candor in the inspector general’s review of a Wall Street Journal story that McCabe helped facilitate.
McCabe’s lawsuit alleged that the disciplinary proceeding that followed that report was inappropriately rushed in response to Trump’s claim that McCabe was trying to “rac[e] the clock” until his retirement benefits kicked in.
McCabe alleged that he was given an improperly short amount to time to respond as part of the disciplinary proceeding and that exculpatory evidence was withheld from him.
A week before Sessions’ final decision to remove him, McCabe’s lawyer was allegedly told by an official involved in the disciplinary proceeding that, “We’re making it up as we go along.”
The lawsuit challenged the legitimacy of Sessions’ order he be removed and said such a decision should have been made by Wray, rather than by Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The lawsuit zeroes in on actions top Justice Department officials — especially Rosenstein — took in response to threats and demands of allegiance from Trump. Rosenstein allegedly repeatedly badgered McCabe about McCabe’s wife’s campaign — particularly about a photo McCabe posed in with her wearing her campaign shirt — and suggested McCabe recuse himself from the Russia probe because of it.
“In December 2017, Trump met with DAG Rosenstein and asked Rosenstein if he
was ‘on my team,’ i.e., Trump’s ‘team,'” the lawsuit said. “’Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,’ Rosenstein responded.”
McCabe is seeking that a court restore his eligibility for the retirement benefits he was blocked from receiving due to his removal.
Read the lawsuit below: