- The Justice Department's inspector general sent a criminal referral to the department about fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
- McCabe was fired less than two days before he became eligible to retire with full benefits.
- The department will decide whether or not to charge McCabe with a crime.
The Department of Justice received a referral recommending criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a legal source familiar with the issue told NBC News Thursday.
The referral recommended charging McCabe with lying to federal investigators.
CNN, which first reported the referral, said it was sent by the Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz. The DOJ will decide whether to charge McCabe with a crime.
The Justice Department declined to comment on this story.
McCabe was fired as the No. 2 official at the FBI in March, less than two days before he was eligible to retire with full pension benefits. His ouster was recommended by the Office of Professional Responsibility and was later carried out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In an initial statement after his firing, McCabe said the decision, which was allegedly the result of an accelerated review process, had been politicized.
"Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of [former FBI Director] James Comey," he said in the statement.
After the public release of an inspector general's report highlighted multiple instances where McCabe allegedly misled investigators, McCabe again disputed the findings.
McCabe was accused of misleading investigators after authorizing an information leak to Wall Street Journal reporters in 2016.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who replaced Comey after he was fired by President Donald Trump last year, had signaled that McCabe's firing was not influenced by partisan politics.
On the release of the inspector general's report, Trump, who had publicly criticized McCabe in the past, tweeted that McCabe "LIED! LIED! LIED!"
Trump tweet DOJ just issued the McCabe report - which is a total disaster. 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!
— NBC News' Pete Williams contributed to this report.