Fired FBI Director James B. Comey went to bat for Andrew McCabe on Jan. 29, tweeting that his onetime deputy director “stood tall when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on.”

But inside the Justice Department last year, the two men, who had run the bureau as a team before both were fired nearly a year apart, were locked in a bitter dispute over who was telling the truth. They provided “starkly conflicting accounts” about a pivotal private meeting that helped lead to Mr. McCabe’s firing, an investigation has found.

Mr. McCabe’s attorney basically accused Mr. Comey of lying, or at least of lacking credibility, in testifying about a conversation the two had over a leak to The Wall Street Journal. The attorney said the Justice Department inspector general was anointing Mr. Comey as a “white knight carefully guarding FBI information while overlooking that Mr. McCabe’s account is more credible.”

Mr. McCabe accused Mr. Comey of denying the deputy’s version as a way to distance himself politically from the Journal leak.

Mr. Comey strenuously disputed Mr. McCabe’s testimony that he, the director, thought the leak was a good idea, according to a Justice Department inspector general’s report released Friday.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz ultimately sided with Mr. Comey as the truth teller.

The backdrop: According to the inspector general’s 35-page report, Mr. McCabe orchestrated the leak to The Journal that disclosed a phone call he had with a senior Obama Justice Department official. The unidentified official wanted the FBI to slow down an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Mr. McCabe instructed his special counsel in October 2016 to anonymously tell the Journal reporter that he, Mr. McCabe, stood up to Justice.

At the time, Mr. McCabe was under intense pressure after The Journal disclosed that his wife, as a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s state Senate in 2015, received nearly $500,000 from a political action committee run by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He is an integral part of the Bill and Hillary Clinton political team.

The appearance of a conflict of interest prompted Mr. Comey to kick Mr. McCabe off a conference call in which aides were discussing the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of an at-home email server to handle sensitive classified information when she was secretary of state.

The McCabe-engineered leak violated FBI rules forbidding the disclosure of an ongoing criminal investigation — in this case the Clintons’ billion-dollar charity that has taken millions of dollars from foreign donors.

Mr. Horowitz, the inspector general, concluded that Mr. McCabe lied four times (in FBI parlance, he “lacked candor”), three times under oath to investigators and once to Mr. Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Mr. McCabe on March 16, days short of full retirement pay, based on a recommendation from the FBI’s office of professional responsibility. President Trump fired Mr. Comey in May 2017.

The McCabe leak investigation began with FBI agents and then shifted to Mr. Horowitz at Justice.

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