The acting head of the FBI said President Donald Trump’s firing of former agency director James Comey has had no impact on an ongoing Russia investigation, but declined to comment on an eye-popping claim the president made in a letter notifying Comey of his dismissal.
“The world of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstances,” acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday. “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
Several senators asked McCabe if he could confirm or deny Trump’s assertion that Comey had informed the president “on three separate occasions” that he is not under investigation by the Department of Justice, which is conducting a probe of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election. McCabe steadfastly declined to do so.
“I can’t comment on any conversations the director [Comey] may have had with the president,” McCabe said. McCabe, however, dismissed White House assertions that Comey had lost the confidence of his peers within the FBI.
“I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. We are a large organization,” McCabe said. “I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees, enjoy a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”
WATCH: McCabe on support for Comey within FBI
Comey’s dismissal Tuesday continued to reverberate on Capitol Hill and beyond. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, noted that Comey had been expected to testify at Thursday’s hearing.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the president’s decision to remove Director Comey was related to this investigation [of Russian meddling]. And that is unacceptable,” Warner said. “President Trump’s actions this week cost us an opportunity to get at the truth – at least for today.”
“Director Comey should be here this morning, testifying to the American people about where the investigation he’s been running stands,” said another Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, asked McCabe about the president’s letter to Comey but did not comment on the dismissal or the resulting furor engulfing the administration. Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Burr said he found it difficult to understand the timing of the FBI director’s firing, but noted that Trump had full authority to do so.
Comey has been invited to speak with the committee behind closed doors next week.
In addition, the committee has subpoenaed President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for documents pertaining to the Russia probe. In a statement, Burr and Warner said the committee first requested the documents in a letter to Flynn last month, but that Flynn declined to cooperate.
Flynn was dismissed in February amid media reports that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.
On Monday, former acting attorney general Sally Yates told a Senate panel she met twice with senior White House staff in late January to inform them of Flynn’s deception and warn that he could be subject to blackmail by Russia.
At Thursday’s Intelligence Committee hearing, Wyden asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo if he was aware of the Justice Department’s concerns about Flynn in the early weeks of the Trump administration.
“I have no firsthand information with respect to the warning that was given. She [Yates] did not make that warning to me,” Pompeo replied.