U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the firing of the FBI's deputy director, but Democrats and other critics attacked it as a politically motivated, vindictive move, as partisan rancor hightened over the controversial decision.
Trump on March 17 used a Twitter posting to call the dismissal of Andrew McCabe a “great day for democracy” and that the FBI’s No. 2 official knew "all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"
The president’s remarks came hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions late on March 16 fired McCabe, who had been criticized by Trump for showing "bias" in the investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia.
Sessions said the firing was based on the recommendation of the FBI's inspector-general and Office of Professional Responsibility.
Sessions said investigators in the FBI offices "concluded that Mr. McCabe made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor -- including under oath -- on multiple occasions.”
McCabe denied any wrongdoing and said his credibility had been attacked as "part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally" but also the FBI and law enforcement.
McCabe, who had served with the FBI for 21 years, was about 26 hours from his planned retirement from the bureau on his 50th birthday, meaning the dismissal likely cost him his full pension, worth an estimated $1.8 million.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, who has often publicly criticized Trump, responded on Twitter to the president’s remarks: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you."
Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat-California), who is on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said Sessions should testify before Congress to determine whether the firing was made in retaliation against those investigating Russian election interference and Moscow's alleged ties to Trump's campaign.
The firing came nine months after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over Comey's handling of the Russia investigation -- a move that alarmed Congress and led to the creation of a special counsel and the appointment of Robert Mueller to conduct the investigation.
McCabe's firing is likely to raise questions about whether McCabe received overly harsh treatment due to political pressure from Trump, who has blasted him on Twitter and called for his ouster.
John Dowd, Trump's personal lawyer, cited the "brilliant and courageous example" by Sessions and said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should "bring an end" to the Russia investigation "manufactured" by Comey.
Dowd first said he was speaking for Trump as his lawyer, but he later issued a statement to media outlets saying he was speaking only for himself and not for the president.