WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors have declined to charge former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, closing an investigation into whether the longtime target of President Donald Trump’s ire lied to federal officials about his involvement in a news media disclosure, McCabe’s legal team said Friday.
The decision, coming at the end of a tumultuous week between the Justice Department and the White House, is likely to further agitate a president who has loudly complained that federal prosecutors have pursued cases against his allies but not against his perceived political enemies.
The action resolves a criminal investigation that began nearly two years ago with a referral from the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which concluded that McCabe had repeatedly lied about having authorized a subordinate to share information with a newspaper reporter for a 2016 article about an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
The case was handled by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, which was at the center of a public rift with Justice Department leadership this week over the recommended sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone. Senior Justice Department officials overruled a decision on a recommended prison sentence that they felt was too harsh, prompting the trial team to quit the case. Attorney General William Barr also took a rare public swipe at Trump by saying in a television interview that the president’s tweets about the Stone case and other matters were making his job “impossible.”
Separately, the Justice Department has begun reviewing the handling of the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.
On Friday, prosecutors notified McCabe’s attorneys in a phone call and a letter that they were closing the case. The letter, signed by the chief of the office’s public corruption unit, did not give a precise reason but said the decision was reached after “careful consideration” and “based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time.”
McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said they were gratified by the decision.
“At long last, justice has been done in this matter,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought.”
Speaking Friday on CNN, where he works as a contributor, McCabe said it was an “absolute disgrace” that the investigation had taken so long and that he was relieved to be done with a process that he described as “so unbelievably tense.”
Though federal prosecutors wrote that they consider the matter closed, Justice Department actions in the last few months have proven unpredictable, with a willingness to scrutinize or revisit decisions that had appeared resolved.
McCabe, a frequent target of Trump’s attacks, has denied that he intentionally misled anyone. He has said his 2018 firing — for what the Justice Department called “lack of candor” — was politically motivated. He sued the Justice Department in August, saying officials had used the inspector general’s conclusions as a pretext to rid the FBI of leaders Trump perceived as biased against him.
The decision is likely to further exacerbate tensions between Trump and Barr, who before speaking out in the television interview had privately complained to aides and the president himself that Trump’s comments about the Justice Department were undercutting his politdical agenda and raising questions about the department’s credibility. The White House was not given a heads-up about the decision beforehand, a person familiar with the matter said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The moment came against a backdrop of growing anger from Trump at the Justice Department. The president has seethed that more of his political enemies have not been charged, included former FBI Director James Comey and his associates.
The president was particularly incensed no charges were filed over Comey’s handling of memos about his interactions with Trump, a matter that was referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution, according to a White House official and Republican close to the White House who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The president angrily denounced the decision and berated Barr over it, according to the officials. Aides expected that the decision not to charge McCabe could produce a similar eruption of rage. Trump did not address the matter during a media appearance Friday.