WASHINGTON – The Justice Department's inspector general has referred to federal prosecutors his findings that Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, had repeatedly misled investigators, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The prosecutors will now have to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to open a criminal investigation.
The referral came days after the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a highly critical report accusing McCabe of demonstrating a lack of candor and releasing sensitive information related to an ongoing criminal investigation.
The referral, though a relatively common step when an inspector general finds possible wrongdoing, is the latest blow to McCabe's reputation. He was fired from the FBI in March over the allegations. Horowitz had concluded that he was less than forthcoming when questioned by investigators about the disclosure of information to a Wall Street Journal reporter about an ongoing criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe appealed the decision, which would have allowed him to retire with his full government pension. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected the overture just hours before McCabe was eligible for his benefits.
Spokespeople for the inspector general, McCabe and the U.S. attorney's office in Washington all declined to comment.
The inspector general's decision is all but certain to provide President Donald Trump with more ammunition to attack McCabe, whom he has repeatedly lambasted as a deep-state bureaucrat working in concert with former FBI Director James Comey to undermine Trump's legitimacy.
After the inspector general report detailing McCabe's behavior was made public last week, Trump went on the offensive.
"He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey — McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
The FBI and the Justice Department have come under withering scrutiny by Trump and his allies as the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, continues.
McCabe contended that the inspector general's report and his firing were meant to discredit him as a witness in the investigation.
The inspector general's report determined that on four occasions, McCabe demonstrated a lack of candor in talking to investigators. McCabe has rebutted those allegations, describing them as "egregious inaccuracies" in the inspector general report.
The report also said McCabe improperly shared information about the Clinton Foundation investigation. McCabe has said disclosing the details was in the public interest and that he was authorized to share it.
The inspector general concluded that that engagement initiated by McCabe had not been justified under the media policy of the FBI and Justice Department and constituted misconduct.
Horowitz is expected to release another report in the coming weeks summarizing an examination of the FBI's actions during the 2016 election.