WASHINGTON — Lawyers for the former F.B.I. deputy director Andrew G. McCabe, a frequent target of President Trump, have asked federal prosecutors whether a secret grand jury refused to indict him, which would be a sign that the government is struggling to make a case against him.
In a letter sent late on Thursday, defense lawyers asked whether a grand jury had considered charges against Mr. McCabe, who is being investigated over whether he lied to internal investigators about interactions with news media. The letter came shortly after the Justice Department told Mr. McCabe’s lawyers that it had rejected their pitch to the deputy attorney general to drop the case.
Their letter was the latest attempt by Mr. McCabe to stave off charges in the highly unusual and politically charged case. His lawyers have denied that he intentionally lied during an internal inquiry and have said that he is being singled out, noting that similar cases were typically handled administratively, not through criminal prosecution.
The Justice Department’s rejection of the defense’s recent appeal would usually suggest that an indictment was forthcoming. But a grand jury hearing evidence that was recalled on Thursday after months of inactivity left for the day without any sign of an indictment, The Washington Post reported. And as of midday Friday, none had emerged.
The case centers on an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general into several issues, including dealings with the news media. The inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found that Mr. McCabe was unforthcoming when asked about information provided to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2016 about an F.B.I. inquiry into the Clinton Foundation. Mr. Horowitz referred his findings to federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia.
Bringing criminal charges against a former senior F.B.I. official would be highly unusual. Mr. McCabe was fired last year over the inspector general’s findings days before he was eligible for retirement benefits. He had become a favorite target of Mr. Trump, and Mr. McCabe has said the president was trying to undermine him as a witness in the special counsel’s investigation.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.