WASHINGTON >> The Justice Department’s inspector general has sent a criminal referral about fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to federal prosecutors in Washington, a person familiar with the matter said today.
The referral to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia does not mean McCabe will ever be charged, but it does raise the possibility that the longtime law enforcement official could face a criminal investigation into whether he illegally misled officials about a news media disclosure. Prosecutors could move to charge him if they conclude that he intentionally lied.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last month, ahead of his scheduled retirement, on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials, who determined that McCabe had lacked candor. Justice Department officials declined to comment today.
The person who described the referral was not authorized to discuss a confidential process publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
A report from the watchdog office released last week concluded that McCabe had misled investigators and his own boss, then-Director James Comey, about his role in an October 2016 Wall Street Journal article about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
The report said McCabe authorized FBI officials to share non-public information with a reporter and then denied having done so when questioned about it under oath. McCabe denies that he misled anyone. He says that as FBI deputy director, he had the authority to share information with the media, and says he permitted subordinates to do so in this case to correct a false narrative that he had tried to stymie an FBI probe into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe told the inspector general’s office that he told Comey after the article was published that he permitted the officials to share the information. But Comey is quoted in the report as saying that McCabe did not tell him he had approved sharing details of the call and, in fact, had left him with the opposite impression.
“I don’t remember exactly how, but I remember some form or fashion and it could have been like ‘Can you believe this crap? How does this stuff get out’ kind of thing?” Comey is quoted as saying in the report. “But I took from whatever communication we had that he wasn’t involved in it.”
Comey said in an interview with CNN today that he was conflicted about McCabe’s legal problems.
“I like him very much as a person, but sometimes even good people do things they shouldn’t do,” Comey said. Though he said he was not the judge or disciplinarian in the case, “It’s not acceptable in the FBI or the Department to lack candor. It’s something we take very seriously.”