Acting FBI director contradicts White House’s claim about Comey’s support within bureau

The acting director of the FBI said that ousted Director James Comey enjoyed widespread support among the bureau’s rank-and-file members — directly contradicting a White House claim to justify his firing.

When asked about the Trump administration’s assertion that Comey had lost the confidence of FBI staff, Andrew McCabe said, “No, sir, that is not accurate.”

McCabe, who has worked for the FBI for 21 years, has been serving as its acting director since President Trump abruptly fired Comey on Tuesday evening.

During his first public appearance as the FBI’s top official, before the Senate Intelligence Committee midday Thursday, McCabe quickly summarized his long, close working relationship with Comey and said he holds the former director in the “absolute highest regard.” He said working with Comey has been the “greatest privilege and honor” of his professional life.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe attends a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

“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. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. We have a diversity of opinions about many things,” McCabe said. “But I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority, of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has been filling in for press secretary Sean Spicer this week so he can fulfill Navy Reserve duty, made the claim about Comey’s popularity.

Sanders also said the highly publicized investigation into the Russian government’s interference with last year’s presidential election is “probably one of the smallest things” for the FBI right now.

McCabe also challenged this claim and said that Comey’s dismissal will not impede the investigation.

“We consider it to be a highly significant investigation,” McCabe said.

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