Washington (CNN)The Justice Department's inspector general referred its findings on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the US attorney's office in Washington for possible criminal charges associated with lying to internal investigators, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Justice Dept. watchdog sends McCabe findings to federal prosecutors for possible charges
When exactly the referral was made to the US attorney's office was not immediately clear, and prosecutors there may decline to prosecute.
Last week, the IG issued a report finding that McCabe "lacked candor" on four occasions with internal investigators when discussing a Wall Street Journal article about the FBI's Clinton Foundation investigation, according to a copy of the report obtained by CNN.
In addition, the inspector general determined that McCabe was not authorized to disclose the existence of the investigation because it was not within the department's "public interest" exception for disclosing ongoing investigations.
The disclosure to the Journal was made "in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of department leadership," the report said.
While leaking non-classified information is generally not a crime in itself and the IG's investigation was not a criminal probe, lying to federal investigators is a crime.
Referrals are not unusual but the move is significant give McCabe's role as the former No. 2 at the FBI.
McCabe's attorney, Michael Bromwich, said he believes there will be no charges filed.
"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," Bromwich said in a statement.
"We have already met with staff members from the US Attorney's Office," he added. "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."
The Justice Department, the inspector general's office and the US attorney's office all declined to comment.
The findings formed the basis of McCabe's firing last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.