A damning report would give President Donald Trump new ammunition to criticize McCabe, who is at the center of Trump’s theory that “deep state” actors inside the FBI have been working to sabotage his presidency.

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WASHINGTON — A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation to journalists, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

Such a damning report would give President Donald Trump new ammunition to criticize McCabe, who is at the center of Trump’s theory that “deep state” actors inside the FBI have been working to sabotage his presidency. But McCabe’s disclosures to the news media do not fit neatly into that assumption: They contribute to a negative article about Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration’s Justice Department — not Trump.

The department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has zeroed in on disclosures to The Wall Street Journal as part of a wide-ranging investigation into, among other things, how the FBI approached the 2016 inquiry into Clinton’s handling of classified information. Horowitz has said he expects to release a report this month or next.

McCabe, under pressure from the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, stepped down as the deputy director in late January amid concerns over the coming report.

The findings have potentially serious ramifications for the FBI, which is in the middle of a special-counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Though the report is not expected to focus on that, some of the same agents — including McCabe — handled both the Russia case and the Clinton inquiry. A report that questions the judgment of those agents would give fodder for Trump and his supporters to step up their attacks on the FBI.

A spokesman for Horowitz declined to comment. Mc­Cabe also declined to comment. He and his allies have steadfastly maintained that he did nothing improper and cooperated fully with the inspector general.

In October 2016, The Wall Street Journal revealed a dispute between FBI and Justice Department officials over how to proceed in an investigation into the financial dealings of the Clinton family’s foundation. The article revealed a closed-door meeting at which senior Justice Department officials were dismissive of the evidence and declined to authorize subpoenas or grand jury activity. Some FBI agents, the article said, believed that McCabe had put the brakes on the investigation.

Others rejected that notion. The Journal, citing sources including “one person close to Mr. McCabe,” revealed a tense conversation with a senior Justice Department official in which McCabe insisted that the FBI had the authority to press ahead with the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

The inspector general has concluded that McCabe authorized FBI officials to provide information for that article, according to the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The public-affairs office had arranged a phone call to discuss the case, the people said. McCabe, as deputy director, had the authority to engage the news media.

Such calls are common practice across the federal government when officials believe that journalists have only part of the story. Rather than let incomplete or inaccurate coverage circulate, officials often try to fill out the picture or provide a defense. But Justice Department rules prohibit the dissemination of confidential information, and the inspector general’s report is expected to criticize McCabe for disclosing the existence of a continuing investigation to The Journal.

It is unclear whether the inspector general will identify others who spoke about the Clinton investigation. But McCabe is by far the most prominent subject. Trump has taunted him on Twitter, writing in December that he “is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go?!!!” McCabe is eligible to retire March 18.

Trump has animosity toward McCabe for several reasons, including his close ties to the former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Trump fired last year. But the president is particularly bothered by the fact that McCabe’s wife, Jill, ran as a Democrat in a failed campaign for a state Senate seat in Virginia.

Later, after Jill McCabe lost the race, Andrew McCabe was promoted to deputy director and oversaw the Clinton investigation. Though McCabe sought ethics and legal advice about whether to recuse himself, some in the FBI considered his involvement a conflict of interest. Ultimately, amid scrutiny from the news media, Comey pressured McCabe to recuse himself. The inspector general is examining whether McCabe should have done so earlier.

Trump has seized on that issue in repeatedly criticizing McCabe, a lifelong Republican who did not vote in the 2016 election. In face-to-face meetings with McCabe, the president questioned how he had voted and needled him about his wife.

McCabe’s allies at the FBI say that Trump is also eager to discredit McCabe because he can corroborate Comey’s accounts of meetings with Trump.