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The deputy director of the FBI was fired on Friday, prompting him to say he is being targeted because he is a crucial witness into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

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The Justice Department’s internal watchdog said it had found that Andrew McCabe had leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

But McCabe, who played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, denied those claims and said he is facing retaliation by the Trump administration.

‘Here’s the reality’

In a lengthy statement, McCabe said he believes he is being politically targeted because he corroborated former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure him into killing the Russia probe.

“Here is the reality: 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 James Comey,” McCabe said in his statement.

“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. 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.”

Trump removed Comey last year and acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing”.

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McCabe’s dismissal came two days before his 50th birthday when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. The firing – which comes nine months after Trump fired Comey – puts McCabe’s pension in jeopardy.

It also is likely to raise questions about whether McCabe received an overly harsh punishment due to political pressure by the Republican president, who has blasted McCabe on Twitter and called for his firing.

Comey’s firing paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to tap special counsel Robert Mueller, who is now leading the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Trump has denied there was any collusion.

“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 James Comey,” McCabe said in his statement.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort … to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally.”

‘Great day for Democracy’

Trump posted a message on his Twitter account early Saturday, praising the action and blasting both McCabe and Comey.

Trump wrote, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hardworking 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!”

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