The acting head of the FBI has said the agency will continue to investigate alleged links between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign – but will not routinely update the White House.
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Andrew McCabe, who assumed leadership of the investigative agency following the firing of James Comey, said the ousting of the former director would not impact the ongoing probe. He also said it had sufficient resources to pursue the investigation.
“The work of the men and women of the FBI. continues despite any changes in circumstances,” he said, responding to Florida senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida.
“There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. Simply put, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing.”
Mr McCabe also said he believed the agency had sufficient resources to continue its probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He said he was not aware of reports that Mr Comey had asked for more.
“If you are referring to the Russia investigation, I do. I believe we have the adequate resources to do it and I know that we have resourced that investigation adequately,” he said.
Scrambling to defend the president firing of Mr Comey, the White House had earlier said the 56-year-old had lost the confidence of the majority of the rank-and-file members of the investigative agency.
With no small irony, it claimed his handing of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server had rendered his position untenable. In truth, Mr Trump had praised Mr Comey for carrying out the investigation, and on several occasions during the 2016 election campaign had said he admired his “guts”.
On Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Comey had committed “atrocities” during the investigation.
“It’s been an erosion of confidence,” she said. “The Department of Justice lost confidence, bipartisan members of Congresss made it clear that they had lost confidence and rank and file members at the FBI had lost confidence in their director.”
Mr McCabe rejected the White House’s claim that Mr Comey had lost the backing of FBI officers.
“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” Mr McCabe said at the hearing. “The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.
During a Senate hearing, Republican Senator Andrew Burr asked Mr McCabe if he ever heard Mr Comey tell the President he wasn’t the subject of an investigation. Mr McCabe said he “can’t comment on any conversations the director may have had with the President”.
But Mr McCabe did vow to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee if the White House tried to interfere with the bureau’s Russia probe – though he asserted that there had “been no effort to impede our investigation to date”.