WASHINGTON — Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe on Thursday contradicted White House statements about why former FBI Director James Comey was dismissed, particularly the assertion that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI.
“That is not accurate,” McCabe said in response to a senator’s question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
President Donald Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, saying he agreed with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s conclusion that Comey could not effectively lead the FBI. Rosenstein had criticized Comey’s handling of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the rank-and-file in the FBI had lost confidence in Comey. Sanders said Thursday she personally had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful” that Comey was ousted.
Comey’s departure also left uncertain the fate of the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties to Trump’s campaign. Trump has denied ties to Russia or knowledge of any campaign coordination with Moscow.
McCabe on Thursday called the Russia investigation “highly significant” — another contradiction of the White House portrayal — and assured senators Comey’s firing will not hinder the probe.
McCabe said he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress. He said there has been no interference so far.
Days before he was fired, Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation, U.S. officials have said, fueling concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency. McCabe said he was not aware of any such request and said the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.
A farewell letter from Comey that circulated among friends and colleagues said he does not plan to dwell on the decision to fire him or on “the way it was executed.”
Comey wrote that he had “long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all.”
Comey continued: “I have said to you before that, in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence.”
He called it “very hard to leave a group of people who are committed only to doing the right thing. My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.”
With Emily Ngo