DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is fighting back. Let's remember he's the ex-FBI official who the Trump administration accused of bias and unfairly targeting the president. McCabe was fired back in March. This week brought news that McCabe could face criminal charges for alleged misstatements. But now, McCabe is creating a legal defense fund to help pay for his attorney fees and perhaps fund a lawsuit he might file against the Trump administration. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is in the studio. Hi, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, David.
JOHNSON: OK. So McCabe has been at the center of so much and so central to the Republican argument that there's bias within the Justice Department. But you talked to James Comey, McCabe's former boss at the FBI, and even he seemed to be agreeing that McCabe was out of line, right? There's a lot going on for this guy.
JOHNSON: Yeah, a tough week really for Andrew McCabe. He isn't speaking publicly, but his lawyer is today. And that lawyer, Michael Bromwich, says Jim Comey is just mistaken about the facts. The lawyer says McCabe definitely told Comey last year he was going to authorize contacts with a reporter at The Wall Street Journal to push back on some criticism. Comey says that didn't happen, and he says that people need to be accountable for their actions. McCabe says he's sure he did notify Comey last year, and he's upset that Comey's been so harsh this week on NPR and other media outlets against him in Comey's book tour.
GREENE: OK. So that's one of the things that we have to work out what happened with those leaks to the press, McCabe saying that it was authorized said. But he, I mean, he might have some really big problems on his hands. You're reporting that prosecutors are considering whether he could face criminal charges over statements to investigators.
JOHNSON: That's right. McCabe left the FBI earlier this year after the new FBI director, Chris Wray, got briefed on the findings of the Justice Department inspector general, namely that McCabe demonstrated a lack of candor and may have made false statements to investigators about these contacts with a reporter. Now we know the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., is weighing what to do about a criminal referral, whether to bring any criminal charges against Andy McCabe. McCabe's lawyer says the standard of proof for making referral is really low. He's met with prosecutors who are in a listening mode, and he's pledged cooperation. And the lawyer for McCabe says he's confident there will be no charges as long as the White House doesn't interfere with this process.
GREENE: Well, is that a possibility? I mean, McCabe has been a frequent target of President Trump. Could the White House intervene in some way?
JOHNSON: Trump has been really talkative about Andrew McCabe, not just this year but last year. In the last day alone, the president has tweeted the inspector general report is a disaster for McCabe and that Comey threw McCabe under the bus. McCabe's lawyer says this is the latest in a slander campaign from Trump. Trump seems preoccupied with McCabe.
In fact, the McCabe team is considering filing a wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit against the Trump administration over his firing. They say these attacks not just hurt Andy McCabe but also hurt the FBI as an institution, and they have some questions about whether the White House leaned on the Justice Department to speed up this investigation of McCabe in order to deny him his health care and other retirement benefits this year. In other words, whether there was a rush job influenced by the White House here out to get Andy McCabe.
GREENE: A lot of open questions here. I mean, what's the next step that we look for?
JOHNSON: Well, most importantly, we're going to see if prosecutors decide to charge Andy McCabe with any wrongdoing. If they do, it's possible his former boss, Jim Comey, could be a witness against him in court, David - really ugly stuff. And then the possibility McCabe could decide to sue the Trump administration over his firing, too.
GREENE: A lot to cover. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.