UPDATE: Late Friday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe less than two days shy of his retirement. McCabe had been expected to retire this Sunday, on his 50th birthday, when he would have become eligible to receive early retirement benefits.
Original story: Andrew McCabe, the former No. 2 at the FBI who is fighting for his job in the wake of an internal investigation just hours ahead of his official retirement, potentially stands to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits if the Trump administration decides to fire him before the week is out.
McCabe joined the bureau in New York in 1996 and rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming the deputy to then-FBI director James Comey in early 2016 and overseeing some of the most high-stakes investigations in the agency.
Along the way, he’s drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, whose top spokesman called McCabe a “bad actor” on Thursday, as well as the scrutiny of the Justice Department’s inspector general for his involvement in the bureau’s probes of Hillary Clinton.
On his 50th birthday – this Sunday – the veteran law enforcement official would become eligible for early retirement benefits, given his 20-plus years of service, according to federal guidelines.
But that’s only if he does not get fired first. On Wednesday, the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe should be fired as a result of claims in the DOJ watchdog report that he misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
On Thursday afternoon, McCabe sat down for several hours with Justice Department officials to plead his case, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The DOJ is expected to make a decision by Friday. McCabe stepped down as the FBI’s deputy director at the end of January and has been on leave since.
The personnel matter is playing out in an unusually fast manner and is up against a significant deadline.
As a law enforcement officer covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, known as FERS, McCabe is set to receive an annual pension payout calculated at a special “enhanced” rate and available at the early age of 50.
“He put his life on the line,” said Kimberly Berry, a federal employment lawyer in Virginia. “The enhanced coverage is enhanced, because by its nature, it’s more rigorous: the career he had.”
Considering McCabe’s number of years at the agency and estimations of his high-level pay grade, formulas published by the US Office of Personnel Management for law enforcement officers show that his yearly payout could hit in the area of $60,000 each year, if McCabe were to retire after his birthday on Sunday.
If he were to be fired before Sunday, it appears likely McCabe could be docked his pension until he hits another, later age milestone.
Experts disagree – and caution that predicting payouts is complicated given the complex federal system and each individual’s personal career particularities – but, per federal rules, McCabe may not be able to draw an annuity until a date ranging just shy of his 57th birthday, and as late as his 62nd. That could put the value of his uncollected pension in the realm of a half-million dollars.
On top of that, McCabe could also lose his law enforcement boost.
“What he would lose – and this is a lot of money – he would lose the enhanced benefits that law enforcement officers get,” said George Chuzi, an attorney who represents federal employees.
Under the rules of FERS, that means he could be left with the standard multiplier of 1% on top of his years of service, down from the 1.7% enhanced rate for law enforcement.
Former FBI officials tell CNN that McCabe could also lose out on future health care coverage in his retirement if he were to be fired before he turned 50, and the firing could be subject to litigation.
The “most significant ‘damage’ to a separated FBI employee is: loss of lifetime medical benefits for self and family,” tweeted CNN law enforcement analyst James A. Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent.
A representative for McCabe declined to comment. The FBI would not comment on McCabe’s financial future, and the Office of Personnel Management did not respond to CNN’s inquiries.