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Andrew McCabe steps down as deputy FBI director amid pressure

Last Updated Jan 29, 2018 11:25 PM EST

CBS News' Pat Milton, Jeff Pegues, Andres Triay, Jennifer Janisch and Len Tepper contributed to this report.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down from the FBI, according to a source familiar with the matter. However, within the Justice Department and FBI, there are competing narratives about the tenor of his departure.  A source tells CBS News that the Justice Department is pushing a narrative that McCabe was "told to go," while within the FBI, sources say that it was McCabe's decision.

An internal communication authored by FBI Director Christopher Wray and sent to FBI officials links McCabe's early departure to the results of an upcoming investigation by the inspector general, which says that FBI must perform at the highest standards, according to an FBI source who has read the communication.

A source familiar with what happened this morning says McCabe made the announcement during a senior staff meeting. The source says McCabe will remain on the FBI payroll until his 50th birthday in March -- his retirement date is March 18 -- but until then he will be "relieved of his duties." Because of his years of service in March he will have 20 years on the job and he'll be 50 years old which makes him eligible to retire with a pension.  Employees who have accrued leave, once they're in range of 20 years of service and 50 years of age, they can leave early, and that is what McCabe has chosen to do.

With the void in leadership, a source says the expectation is that David Bowdich will be the interim deputy FBI director.  The name may ring a bell because as the assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles Field Office, he ran the FBI's response to the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015.

The White House had no comment on the matter, although White House press secretary told reporters Monday that "the president wasn't part of this decision-making process."

McCabe was under considerable scrutiny from Republicans, as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates continued. McCabe took temporary charge of the FBI after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, and some skeptics viewed McCabe as too close to his former boss.

Comey, meanwhile, sent a tweet Monday evening saying McCabe "served with distinction" while "people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on."

After the president fired Comey, he asked McCabe, who was then the acting FBI director, whom he voted for in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump also expressed his anger with McCabe over his wife's ties to the Clinton family during the same meeting in May, the Washington Post reported last week.

Also last week, Axios reported that the FBI director, Christopher Wray, threatened to resign after he was pressured by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire McCabe. President Trump has denied that Wray threatened to resign.

Republicans have long been skeptical of McCabe, who was connected to the FBI Clinton email investigation, because of his wife's ties to Democratic politics. McCabe's wife, Jill McCabe, received $500,000 in donations in 2015 from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close ally of the Clintons, in her bid for statewide office. Republicans asked why McCabe didn't remove himself from the Clinton email probe, perceiving a conflict of interest. McCabe's wife's campaign ended months before he become involved with the investigation, according to the FBI.

Some of that skepticism intensified when Republicans learned earlier this month that Mueller removed former FBI agent Peter Strzok from his team over allegations that Strzok exchanged anti-Trump texts with another now-former member of Mueller's team, Lisa Page. Strzok was also key in the Clinton email investigation, which McCabe was a part of leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

McCabe, 49, first joined the FBI in 1996, and was to be eligible for retirement benefits this year.