WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – During testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Acting FBI Director Andrews McCabe called their investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign “highly significant.”
His categorization of the investigation contradicts claims by White House Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who downplayed the Russia probe angle by saying the FBI is “doing a whole lot more than the Russia investigation.”
In his opening statement, committee co-chair Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that former FBI Director James Comey’s termination was related to the Russian probe, and he said “that is truly unacceptable.”
McCabe said he would inform the committee of any interference with the FBI’s investigation on Russian and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. McCabe added that his department would not be providing the White House any updates on their Russia investigation.
Sen. Marco Rubio asked McCabe if Comey’s firing had impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted any investigation at the FBI.
“As you know, senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decision. There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,” McCabe said.
As McCabe testified, President Trump spoke out about his decision to fire Comey.
“Oh, I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt.
President Trump told Holt that he didn’t need the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Comey.
“He’s a show boat, he’s a grand stander, the FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that,” President Trump said.
But up on Capitol Hill, McCabe shot down one of the White House’s excuses for axing Comey.
“Is it accurate that the rank and file no longer supported Director Comey?” Sen. Martin Heinrich asked McCabe.
“No, sir. That is not accurate,” McCabe said. “Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day.”
Democrats have argued that everything about Comey’s firing was unorthodox, from the way he was informed to the timing itself.
“The president’s one page letter was completely bizarre,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA.
“You can’t fire the investigator when he is investigating your administration,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA.
Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein came to Capitol Hill himself to meet with the heads of the Senate committee doing its own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“So that when we had witnesses that we needed to talk to, we made sure that we weren’t stepping on top of anything that might be an active investigation,” Sen. Richard Burr said.
Rosenstein could soon be the subject of an investigation himself.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz is calling for the Department of Justice inspector general to look into the firing of Director Comey.
Democrats have fond an ally in the Senate’s Republican chairman of the intelligence committee.
“The timing and the reasons for this decision make little sense to me. And I don’t think I’ve heard anything since last night to clarify that in any way,” said Sen. Richard Burr.
While Democrats have insisted that a special prosecutor, who can’t be fired by President Trump, be brought in Burr said that person would only get in the way of the investigation he’s already conducting.
Burr and Warner, have asked Comey to meet with their committee next week in a closed-door session.
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