Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disputed Thursday the White House’s assertion that FBI employees had lost faith in James Comey, saying the former FBI chief had “broad support” within the agency.
“I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity,” McCabe told members of the Senate intelligence committee.
He said Comey enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.” He added, “The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.”
On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said that the President “and the rest of the FBI” had lost confidence in Comey. She said the White House had heard from “countless” members of the FBI to that effect.
McCabe also said there has been no effort to impede the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, but vowed to inform a Senate panel if the White House tried to intervene.
McCabe was testifying on Capitol Hill two days after President Donald Trump fired his predecessor amid reports he was infuriated about the bureau’s probe into whether his campaign aides colluded with Moscow. McCabe said nothing could prevent the FBI from “doing the right thing” but promised to tell the Senate intelligence committee if any attempt was made to thwart the investigation.
Amid reports that Comey had asked for more resources for the Russia investigation, McCabe testified that he believed the bureau had adequate resources to complete the job. He was asked by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio whether the dismissal of Comey had “in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted” the investigation.
“As you know, senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions, so there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,” McCabe told members of the Senate intelligence committee. “Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”
In an earlier question from ranking Democrat Mark Warner, he vowed “absolutely” to inform the committee if Trump’s White house did take steps to interfere.
The man who stepped into Comey’s shoes is getting a public baptism of fire. The acting FBI director is a part of a hearing testifying in place of his former boss, who had been due to appear before his dismissal.
He is seated alongside other top intelligence chiefs for a hearing on global threats to the United States and its allies but is likely to face questions, particularly from Democratic senators, about what he knows about Comey’s firing and about the integrity of the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the last year’s election and whether any of Trump’s campaign aides may have cooperated with Moscow.
McCabe refuted reports, highlighted by the White House that there was a widespread loss of confidence among the rank and file in Comey’s leadership.
“No sir, that is not accurate,” he told Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich.
Burr, a North Carolina Republican, opened the event by asking the panel’s members to focus on the original topic of the hearing — discussing “World Wide Threats” — a request Warner said would be difficult to accommodate.
“It is impossible to ignore that one of the leaders of the intelligence community is not here with us today,” the Virginia senator said in his opening remarks. “The President’s firing of FBI Director Comey Tuesday night was a shocking development. The timing of Director Comey’s dismissal to me and to many members of the committee on both sides of the aisle is especially troubling.”
McCabe took part in a private meeting with Trump at the White House on Wednesday, after deputy White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the President would talk to him about morale at the bureau following Comey’s departure.
Burr has also expressed concern about Comey’s firing.
“I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” Burr tweeted.
“His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee.”
Alongside McCabe at the witness table on Thursday will be Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Robert Cardillo, who runs the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.