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FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions at Wray's installation ceremony last year. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has adamantly urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to make a "fresh start" with his core team, including replacing deputy director and Trump bête noire Andrew McCabe, according to a senior administration source.

According to this source, and two other sources briefed on the conversations, Sessions has been strongly urging Wray to do this for some time. Another person Sessions thought should be cleared from the core team: the FBI's top lawyer James A. Baker, who was "reassigned" in December.

"The conversations about McCabe and the core team started shortly after Wray was confirmed," said the senior administration source. "They intensified from there." The New York Times — and others — reported in December that McCabe "is expected to retire after he becomes eligible for his pension [in] early [2018]." But senior Justice officials are still not sure what McCabe plans to do.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment when presented with the facts in this story.

Trump and other Republicans have been hammering McCabe for months on Twitter.

  • On July 26, Trump tweeted: "Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got...big dollars ($700,000) for his wife's political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives. Drain the Swamp!"
  • Ironically, the White House chose McCabe to be acting director after Trump fired Comey.

McCabe remains at the FBI.

Behind Sessions' conversations: The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into how the FBI under former director James Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016. There are also ongoing leak investigations, per the same source.

  • But even without all of these investigations, Sessions believes "Wray should have a fresh start with his own team," according to the senior administration source.

For more great news and analysis in your inbox each day, be sure to sign up for Jonathan Swan's Sneak Peek and Axios' other newsletters.

Go deeper

8 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.