President Trump used Twitter Saturday to suggest that Andrew McCabe, the FBI's increasingly embattled deputy director, was holding onto his position in a race against time to claim full pension benefits.
Trump said McCabe was "racing the clock" in one tweet Saturday:
"FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!"
McCabe's retirement has been rumored in Washington, D.C., circles for some time, but the president seemed to be responding to a report published Saturday afternoon by the Washington Post that McCabe plans to retire after he becomes eligible to receive full pension benefits in March 2018.
Trump added this in another tweet:
"How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin' James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation?"
NPR's Ryan Lucas has previously reported that McCabe was eligible to retire with a full pension in March and is expected to remain in his job until then despite the political pressure to remove him.
NPR's Carrie Johnson tweeted Saturday, she has also been told by people with knowledge of the matter that McCabe is likely to take vacation time that he has accrued after nearly 20 years as an FBI agent, which would effectively have him out of the building before his official final day at the FBI sometime in March.
"He's got about 90 days, and some of that will be holiday time. He can make it," one source familiar with matter also said, according to the Washington Post's report.
McCabe spent some 14 hours in closed-door meetings with three House Committees this week — Oversight, Judiciary and Intelligence. Republicans were reportedly, dissatisfied with some of his answers.
The reports about McCabe's plans, by the Post and the New York Times, come during an especially politically-charged and tense time in the FBI's relationship with the president and Republicans in Congress.
A week ago, President Trump said he did not have plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Department of Justice investigation into contacts between Russian operatives and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
But the FBI and the Justice Department have been targets of sustained attacks from Trump allies with the apparent aim of diminishing the institutions' credibility.
"The worse those institutions look, the easier it might be, down the line, to dismiss anything that comes from Mueller's team as the product of Democratic 'bias' — or altogether invalid," NPR's Philip Ewing explained.
Last week a lawyer for Trump's presidential transition team sent a letter to Congress alleging that Mueller's team had improperly collected thousands of emails belonging to the transition team and was using them as an illegitimate basis for much of his investigation. Mueller's spokesperson said the special counsel's team obtained the emails properly.
That letter and McCabe's testimony on Capitol Hill earlier this week were the latest in several weeks of heightened political scrutiny of the FBI, the special counsel's team and the Department of Justice by the president and his allies in politics and the conservative media.
McCabe has been a particular target, according to the Washington Post, because he "holds a unique position in the political firestorm surrounding the FBI."
He was, the Post added, former FBI Director "James B. Comey's right-hand man, a position that involved him in most of the FBI's actions that vex President Trump and in the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state, a matter that still riles Democrats."
The onetime political aspirations of his wife Jill have also caused the president and Republicans in Congress to closely scrutinize McCabe. Jill McCabe ran for a Virginia State Senate seat in 2015 as a Democrat and accepted a six-figure political contribution from the political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton, the Times points out.