WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors are examining whether they have sufficient evidence to open a criminal investigation into Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, his lawyer said on Thursday, after a Justice Department inspector general report repeatedly faulted him for misleading investigators.
The inquiry is certain to add to an already corrosive atmosphere pitting Mr. McCabe and other current and former law enforcement officials against President Trump. The president has accused them of concocting a baseless investigation into possible links between his associates and Russia’s election interference.
The inspector general referred his findings on Mr. McCabe to prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office for the District of Columbia in recent weeks, according to Mr. McCabe’s lawyer, Michael R. Bromwich, who called the step unjustified and stressed that the White House should not interfere in an independent law enforcement investigation.
“We are confident that, unless there is inappropriate pressure from high levels of the administration, the U.S. attorney’s office will conclude that it should decline to prosecute,” Mr. Bromwich said. Representatives for the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and the United States attorney’s office declined to comment.
Such a referral is common when the inspector general concludes, as he did in this case, that he has reason to believe the law was broken.
Mr. McCabe has been swept up in an extraordinary and abrupt conclusion to his 21-year F.B.I. career. He was fired last month over the allegations at the heart of the inspector general report, and his appeal was rejected by Attorney General Jeff Sessions hours before Mr. McCabe would have been eligible for retirement benefits.
Mr. McCabe contended that the inspector general’s report and his firing were meant to discredit him as a witness in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is also examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in trying to interfere with the inquiry.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has escalated his attacks on Mr. McCabe and his former boss, the fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey, as Mr. McCabe was ousted and Mr. Comey embarked on a publicity tour for his highly anticipated book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” which was published this week. Mr. Comey said in an interview on Thursday on CNN that he was conflicted about the accusations that Mr. McCabe was not forthcoming to investigators.
“James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe ‘under the bus,’” Mr. Trump wrote Thursday evening on Twitter. “Inspector General’s Report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them! Getting a little (lot) of their own medicine?”
Mr. McCabe is said to have recently sold the rights to his own book about his time at the F.B.I., which is likely to excoriate Mr. Trump.
Mr. McCabe was faulted last week in the highly critical report by Mr. Horowitz for being less than forthcoming when questioned by investigators. They were asking about the disclosure of information in 2016 to a Wall Street Journal reporter about a continuing criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
Mr. McCabe authorized two F.B.I. officials to speak to The Journal to rebut allegations that he had slowed down the Clinton Foundation inquiry. As the resulting article noted, Mr. McCabe had insisted that his agents had the authority to investigate the foundation, even if the Justice Department refused to authorize grand jury subpoenas.
The inspector general’s report determined that on four occasions, Mr. McCabe demonstrated a lack of candor in discussing those interactions with investigators. Mr. Horowitz concluded that the engagement initiated by Mr. McCabe had not been justified under the news media policy of the F.B.I. and Justice Department and constituted misconduct.
Mr. McCabe has rebutted the allegations, describing them as “egregious inaccuracies.”
Mr. Horowitz is expected to release another report in the coming weeks summarizing an examination of the F.B.I.’s actions during the 2016 election. After his report about Mr. McCabe was made public last week, Mr. 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!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Comey has said that Mr. Trump is not fit to hold office and has compared him to a mobster. The president fired back, calling Mr. Comey the worst director in F.B.I. history.
Mr. McCabe does have plenty of supporters. This month, he raised more than a half-million dollars for his legal defense fund through an internet fund-raising tool.
Mr. McCabe also quietly shopped a book proposal recently to publishing houses. He received offers from multiple publishers, according to several industry executives, and came to an agreement to publish the book with one of the major houses.
His literary agent, Todd Shuster, declined to comment.
Mr. McCabe likely has an intriguing story to tell about his experience in the F.B.I. and his interactions with the Trump administration. As the deputy director, he was directly involved in the Russia investigation as well as the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He also participated in many other high-profile inquiries, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the arrest of a suspect in the 2012 attacks on American compounds in Benghazi.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. McCabe’s book will be derailed by the news of the criminal referral, or, if it goes forward, would generate the same degree of interest as Mr. Comey’s book, which became an instant best-seller, with a first printing of 850,000 copies.
While Mr. Comey’s book has been an undisputed commercial success, the reaction in political and news media circles has been mixed. Some have praised Mr. Comey’s forthrightness, but others have criticized his wall-to-wall TV appearances as a self-aggrandizing publicity stunt that has exacerbated the already strained relations between Mr. Trump and the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Trump sees the two former top F.B.I. officials as well as other law enforcement agents as part of a “witch hunt” to damage his presidency. For months, he has insisted that he did not collude with the Russian effort to influence the election.
The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel investigation, has said that he has seen no reason to stop the inquiry, even as Mr. Trump and his allies attack it as biased.
Three House Republican committee chairmen were prepared to support a subpoena to compel Mr. Rosenstein to turn over documents in the case, namely, unredacted copies of a set of closely held memos written by Mr. Comey about his interactions with the president.
They are believed to be key evidence in a possible obstruction of justice case against Mr. Trump being pursued by Mr. Mueller. Mr. McCabe is also known to have kept memos detailing his interactions with the president.
But Justice Department officials sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday declassified, unredacted copies of the memos, alleviating the need for a subpoena; they were quickly leaked to the news media later Thursday.
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