WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is reviewing a recommendation that it fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, days ahead of his scheduled retirement, amid an inspector general investigation expected to be harshly critical of him, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The recommendation from officials with the Office of Professional Responsibility was sent to Justice Department leaders but has not been acted on yet, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an internal personnel matter.
McCabe, a frequent target of President Donald Trump's criticism even before the election, has been on leave from the FBI since stepping down in January from his deputy director position. He is scheduled to retire on Sunday after a 22-year career.
The inspector general's office, which for more than a year investigated the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, has concluded that McCabe authorized FBI officials to speak with a journalist for an October 2016 story in The Wall Street Journal. Though Trump has criticized McCabe as biased in favor of Clinton, the story in question actually undercut that narrative and suggested that FBI officials wanted to more actively probe the Clinton Foundation but were discouraged from taking more aggressive steps by the Obama Justice Department.
The person familiar with the matter said McCabe is suspected of having not been forthcoming with officials from the inspector general's office who were investigating the media leak — an allegation he denies. The inspector general's report has not been released but is expected out soon.
McCabe did not return a call seeking comment.
Trump has frequently singled out McCabe in arguing that FBI leadership is biased against his administration. He had attacked McCabe on the campaign trail, too, following the revelation that his wife had accepted campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton ally, during a failed state Senate run.
The FBI has said McCabe received ethics approval and was not overseeing the Clinton investigation at the time.
The New York Times first reported the recommendation.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the specific recommendation from the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, which is responsible for employee disciplinary matters and is made up of career employees.
"The Department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated," spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. "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."
Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced in 2017 a wide-ranging watchdog investigation into the FBI's actions during the Clinton email investigation, including an unusual news conference at which then-Director James Comey announced his recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton and a letter to Congress months later that revealed the FBI was revisiting the probe after the discovery of additional emails.