New FBI acting director grilled by Senate
Washington | Congress demands answers about the circumstances of James Comey’s firing
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/11/17, 03:00 pm
Legislators are scrambling today to try to pin down the reason President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Was it because Comey botched the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, as Trump said, or was the White House trying to muffle the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election?
New acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, in just his second day on the job, testified about the matter before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier today. McCabe asserted the White House had not interfered with the FBI investigation by cutting Comey loose or at any other time.
“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” McCabe said, but he also contradicted claims by the Trump administration that the Russia probe was a low priority for the FBI, calling it a “highly significant investigation.”
In an interview with NBC News today, Trump said Comey told him three different times he was not being investigated.
“I know that I’m not under investigation,” Trump said. “Me personally. I’m not talking about campaigns or anything else. I am not under investigation.”
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also took the stage today as a key player in Comey’s ouster. Some news outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported Comey asked Rosenstein for more resources for the Russia investigation in the days before he was fired. But the Justice Department denied that request happened.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested a memo from Rosenstein criticizing Comey helped persuade Trump to finally fire the FBI director, whom Sanders said Trump had considered letting go since the day he took office. Rosenstein’s memo focuses on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and does not mention the Russia probe. Trump said today he had planned to fire Comey for a long time, regardless of what Rosenstein advised.
Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., sent Rosenstein a letter asking for clarification of what Comey told him and the White House about the Russia investigation.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, demanding he turn over documents relevant to the Russia investigation. Flynn, who was fired for lying about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States after the election, declined to cooperate with an April 28 request for documents.
In his testimony today, McCabe said he did not plan to update the president on the progress of the Russia investigation as it unfolds, but he promised to notify Congress if the White House tried to impede the investigation.