U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sacked former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who has been accused of political bias by President Donald Trump.
McCabe stepped down as deputy director of the FBI in January, and the sacking comes two days before his 50th birthday, when he was expected to retire with pension rights.
Trump welcomed the decision in a tweet late Friday.
“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!” he wrote.
Sessions, who has been criticized by Trump for recusing himself from matters relating to the Russia probe, said the decision had been taken "after an extensive and fair investigation" into McCabe.
He said an internal investigation report concluded that Mr McCabe had "made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media.”
"Based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department's senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately."
The Wall Street Journal article McCabe is said to have given the green light for officials to contribute to reported that McCabe had slowed the bureau's investigation into the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 presidential election. It was published in November 2016, two days after former FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email servers.
In an interview with CNN Friday, McCabe hit back at the claims he had misled the justice department's investigators.
"I absolutely never misled the inspector general in any way," McCabe said, calling his downfall the result of "a series of attacks designed to undermine my credibility and my reputation."
McCabe said he asked other officials to speak with The Wall Street Journal to "correct factually inaccurate things."
McCabe was closely involved with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server as well as the Russia probe into alleged collusion between Trump's officials and Russia, and had stepped down in January pending the results of the Justice Department investigation into his conduct.
In a statement Friday, McCabe said his firing was part of a “larger effort” to discredit the U.S. intelligence community.
"I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of [FBI director] James Comey," Mr McCabe said in a statement.
Comey was fired last year by the president, who criticized his handling of the Russia probe. The sacking prompted the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation.
In testimony to the Senate in June 2017, Comey alleged that Trump had demanded his loyalty in a private dinner at the White House amid the Russia inquiry.
McCabe said in his statement that his firing had been “accelerated” after he indicated he would corroborate Comey’s version of events.
He continued: "This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said. "It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work."
Trump has frequently alleged political bias in the FBI, and said that McCabe's wife, who ran as a Democrat for a Senate seat in Virginia, accepted Clinton cash.
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