US 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 officials about his involvement in a news media disclosure.
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 authorised 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 US attorney's office in Washington, which was at the centre 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 on Friday.
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 scrutinise 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 candour" - 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.
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.
Australian Associated Press