Andrew McCabe, the 20-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who took over the agency after its director was abruptly fired on May 9, contradicted the White House in his first public appearance as acting director today.
Testifying in front of a Senate intelligence committee hearing on foreign threats to US security, McCabe said it would “not be accurate” to say that former director James Comey had lost the support of the agency’s agents. Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does today,” he said.
McCabe’s statement directly contradicts what White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters May 10, when she said Comey was fired because president Donald Trump, along with US attorney general Jeff Sessions, had “lost confidence in him.” Sanders added that “most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.”
Trump himself seemed to contradict the official White House narrative in an interview that was just made public this afternoon (May 11). “I was going to fire Comey, regardless of recommendations,” Trump told NBC.
McCabe also said there had so far been no effort to impede the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling attempts, adding “You can not stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the constitution.” He also pledged to report any future interference attempts to the committee.
McCabe is expected to be replaced in the coming weeks by a permanent director who will be nominated by the president and then must be approved by a simple majority vote in the Senate. But the acting director’s contradiction of the White House version of events raises even more questions about the real reasons that Trump fired Comey.
At one point during the hearing, the chair and vice chair of the committee stepped out for a meeting they “can’t put off.” According to Politico, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had requested an emergency meeting with the senators. Rosenstein’s written report about Comey’s actions during 2016 was circulated by the White House to support the firing of the FBI director.
The Russia investigation is “highly significant” inside the agency, McCabe said later in his testimony, contradicting Sanders again. She said yesterday it was “probably one of the smallest things that they’ve got going on their plate.”