AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Former FBI Director James Comey has been making the rounds this week on his book tour. He's been talking about President Trump, and he's been talking about his one-time deputy Andrew McCabe. Comey says it is possible that he could be a witness facing off in court against McCabe. That's if prosecutors decide to charge McCabe with wrongdoing over a media leak to The Wall Street Journal. McCabe's lawyer acknowledges he might be facing charges. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following the drama, and she joins us now to talk about it. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So Jim Comey and Andy McCabe worked side by side at the FBI during a pretty turbulent period. Why are they now at odds?
JOHNSON: They're at odds now because of a Justice Department inspector general investigation. The investigation is about who leaked sensitive information to The Wall Street Journal in 2016. In an interview with NPR this week, Comey sided with the inspector general and seemed to say that McCabe had lied to investigators. Comey went on to say there's a need for accountability, even for good people who happen to do the wrong thing. Now, Andy McCabe's lawyer says he's disappointed and upset over these comments. McCabe has a lot of respect for Comey, has looked up to him, doesn't understand why Comey is making these comments now. It's a sensitive time.
CHANG: Yeah, a really sensitive time. That's because we learned this week that McCabe may be under criminal investigation by prosecutors.
JOHNSON: Yeah. The inspector general made a criminal referral about McCabe's alleged false statements some weeks ago. The U.S. attorney in Washington D.C. is reviewing the issue now. McCabe's lawyer says the bar for such a referral is very low. He's met with prosecutors, pledged to cooperate. The issue, he says, is a misunderstanding, not an intentional false statement. And team McCabe says they're confident there will be no criminal charges if the White House stays out of things and doesn't interfere with the Justice Department.
CHANG: If the White House stays out of things. Well, that's a pretty serious allegation, that the Trump administration might meddle in an active criminal investigation. Why does McCabe think that's actually a concern here?
JOHNSON: Well, because Donald Trump has been beating up Andy McCabe on Twitter and in public statements for more than a year. Just this week, the president tweeted that Jim Comey was throwing McCabe under the bus when it came to the IG. Before McCabe was fired by the Justice Department this year, the president was urging his dismissal, and even urging that his employment benefits and health insurance be yanked, which actually went on to happen. We have some new evidence, too, about Trump's preoccupation with Andy McCabe, these Comey memos. These are memos Comey wrote about his chats with Trump last year.
JOHNSON: Again and again in these memos, Comey said Trump would ask him about McCabe, whether McCabe could be trusted. So McCabe's lawyers say they worry the president might try to go after him again.
CHANG: So how is Andy McCabe preparing to defend himself?
JOHNSON: Well, today in an interview with reporters, Andy McCabe's lawyer, Michael Bromwich, says this is a multi-front war. They're creating a legal defense fund to help pay fees to deal with the U.S. attorney and Congress, and they're considering going on the attack themselves. They may file a wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit against the Trump administration. There's a lot more to come in the next few weeks, and there may be another book tour to look forward to, Ailsa.
CHANG: Oh, boy.
JOHNSON: (Laughter) Jim Comey's been on the air nonstop with his new book...
JOHNSON: ...And McCabe is thinking about writing his own book about all of this.
CHANG: So much to look forward to. All right. That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thank you, Carrie.
JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.