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story.lead_photo.caption In this June 7, 2017 file photo, then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe appears before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington.

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department inspector general referred its finding that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators to the top federal prosecutor in Washington to determine if McCabe should be charged with a crime, people familiar with the matter said.

The referral to the district U.S. attorney's office occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded that McCabe had lied to investigators or his own boss, then-FBI Director James Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath.

The U.S. attorney's 0ffice met with McCabe's legal team in recent weeks, though it was not immediately clear if prosecutors there were conducting their own investigation or believed criminal charges are appropriate. A referral to federal prosecutors does not necessarily mean McCabe will be charged with a crime.

Michael Bromwich, McCabe's lawyer, said in a statement: "We were advised of the referral 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 U.S. Attorney's Office. 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."

IG refers to the inspector general. The Justice Department, the district U.S. attorney's office and a spokesman for McCabe declined to comment Thursday.

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 -- detailed allegations that 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" -- 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 Donald 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."

He was referring to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as possible ties with Trump campaign officials.

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.

A Section on 04/20/2018

Print Headline: McCabe findings sent to U.S. attorney for review

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