The Justice Department's inspector general's office has sent a criminal referral regarding former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to federal prosecutors in Washington, DC, according to McCabe's attorney.
McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March, days before he was scheduled to retire. Sessions had cited a report by the inspector general's office that was critical of McCabe, as well as findings by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility and a senior career official, in announcing his decision.
The inspector general's office and the US attorney's office declined to comment on the referral, which was reported on Thursday by CNN and the Washington Post. In a statement to reporters in response to the reports, McCabe's attorney Michael Bromwich said they were advised of the referral to the US attorney's office in Washington "within the past few weeks."
"Although we believe the referral is unjustified, the standard for an IG referral is very low. We have already met with staff members from the US Attorney’s Office. We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the Administration, the US Attorney’s Office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute," Bromwich said.
A referral does not mean that McCabe will face charges, but that the inspector general's office had reason to think McCabe may have committed a crime. The US attorney's office in Washington, where the referral was reportedly sent, will take over and decide whether to pursue charges. Bromwich did not specify in his statement what exactly the inspector general's office communicated to federal prosecutors in Washington.
According to a Justice Department manual, it is department policy that US attorneys and other DOJ lawyers "will give investigations of Inspector General matters a high priority."
The inspector general's report, which was made public on April 13, criticized McCabe for authorizing a leak of information to the Wall Street Journal about the FBI's investigation into the Clinton Foundation, and concluded that he "lacked candor" during an investigation into the leak. McCabe has denied wrongdoing, in a March 23 op-ed in the Washington Post and through his lawyer.
McCabe has been weighing legal action of his own. After Trump responded to the release of the inspector general's report with a tweet slamming McCabe — "He LIED! LIED! LIED!" — Bromwich responded with a tweet, writing, "Thank you for providing even more material for the defamation suit we are actively considering filing against you and your colleagues. Stay tuned."
Bromwich elaborated in a statement later that day, saying that McCabe's team had "for some time been actively considering filing civil lawsuits against the President and senior members of the Administration that would allege wrongful termination, defamation, Constitutional violations and more." He said lawyers from the firm Boies Schiller Flexner were involved, and that "this is just the beginning."
McCabe has not filed any public legal action to date. A legal defense crowdfunding site for McCabe raised $567,996 in five days.