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The Justice Department inspector general referred its finding that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators who were examining a media disclosure to the top federal prosecutor in D.C. to determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, according to people familiar with the matter.
The referral to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his own boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath.
It was not immediately clear how the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to the referral, or whether prosecutors there are conducting their own investigation or believe criminal charges are appropriate. A referral to federal prosecutors does not necessarily mean McCabe will be charged with a crime.
The Justice Department, the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and a spokeswoman for McCabe declined to comment Thursday.
[Inspector general report faults Andrew McCabe for unauthorized disclosure of information, misleading investigators]
Last week, Inspector General Michael Horowitz sent to Congress a report blasting McCabe. It says he inappropriately authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media, then lied repeatedly to investigators examining the matter. The report — which quickly became public, though it was not released by the inspector general — laid out in stunning detail allegations McCabe had deceived investigators about his role in approving the disclosure, even as he lashed out at others in the FBI for leaks.
McCabe, though, disputes many of the report’s findings and has said he never meant to mislead anyone.
Lying to federal investigators is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, and some legal analysts speculated in the wake of the report that the inspector general seemed to be laying out a case for accusing McCabe of such conduct. The report alleged that one of McCabe’s lies “was done knowingly and intentionally” — which is a key aspect of the federal crime.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI last month, just 26 hours before McCabe could retire, denying McCabe some of his retirement benefits and reigniting the political firestorm that has long surrounded the former FBI official. President Trump had repeatedly and publicly attacked McCabe, and McCabe alleged his termination was politically motivated.
“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,” McCabe said in a statement on the night he was removed from the FBI. “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. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.”
McCabe would later raise more than a half-million dollars for a legal-defense fund through a GoFundMe page. His firing was recommended by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, based on the inspector general’s findings.
Separately this week, a group of 11 House Republicans asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber to explore whether McCabe — along with a host of other Justice Department officials — committed any crimes in their handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the probe into Russia interference in the 2016 election and other matters. Sessions has tasked Huber with looking into a range of GOP concerns.
The referral from the Inspector General to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office is thought to be far more serious, as inspector general investigators are nonpartisan lawyers and agents who probe wrongdoing for a living.
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