A previously-scheduled Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today on “Worldwide Threats” became the object of unexpected excitement given the recent dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey, as Comey’s interim replacement Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe came before the Committee instead. While McCabe testified alongside Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, and Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo, he was undoubtedly the star of the show, as Committee Chairman Richard Burr welcomed him “to the table and into the fray.”
Amidst a news cycle seemingly moving at the speed of light, it’s worth noting a few major takeaways from McCabe’s testimony this morning:
- McCabe was questioned several times on President Trump’s assertion—made in his letter dismissing Comey—that Comey had informed him “on three separate occasions” that Trump was not “under investigation.” Each time, McCabe refused to comment on any conversations Comey may have had with the President. However, he did say in response to questioning from Senator Ron Wyden that the FBI would not “typically” answer an individual’s question as to whether he or she were under investigation. In response to questioning from Senator Susan Collins, he also said that informing an individual that they were not the “target” of an investigation would not be standard practice for the Bureau.
- In response to questioning from Wyden, McCabe committed to refraining from providing similar updates to President Trump on whether Trump continues to be under investigation.
- McCabe stated that he has not spoken directly to anyone from the White House about the Russia investigation. Though he declined to answer when asked by Senator Martin Heinrich as to when he last met with the President, he did say that he did not discuss the Russia investigation with Trump.
- McCabe has had conversations with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, though he did not say what about. He has not spoken with anyone other than Rosenstein at the Department of Justice in the last 48 hours.
- Comey’s dismissal has not impeded the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, McCabe said. All agents involved in conducting the Russia investigation are still in their previous positions.
- Yesterday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Comey had “lost the confidence” of “rank-and-file” members of the FBI. McCabe forcefully pushed back against this claim and stated that “the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.” He also emphasized that he himself has high respect for Comey, saying that working with him was “the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life.” (Hours after McCabe’s testimony, Sanders said that she had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the President’s decision … I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.”)
- In response to a question from Senator Joe Manchin as to morale within the FBI over the course of the presidential campaign, McCabe said that morale had remained high. However, he did note that “there were folks within our agency who were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case.” He did not make clear whether “frustrated with the outcome,” refers to the Bureau’s recommending no prosecution, or Comey’s public statements on the subject.
- McCabe also disputed Sanders’ characterization of the Russia investigation as “one of the smallest things” going on at the Bureau. Rather, he said that the investigation is “highly significant.”
- McCabe declined to say whether the FBI’s investigation includes examining Russian interference in state-level election infrastructure.
- McCabe repeatedly told senators that the FBI has adequate resources with which to conduct the Russia investigation. Multiple reports have indicated that Comey met with Committee Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner to inform them that he would be requesting further resources with which to conduct the investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who drafted the memo that led to Comey’s dismissal; the meeting between Rosenstein and Comey took place shortly before Comey was fired. (The Department of Justice has denied that Comey made requests for money or resources, though the New York Times writes that Comey asked Rosenstein for “more prosecutors and other personnel.”) When questioned about Comey’s request for further resources, McCabe stated that he could not confirm the request and that the story was “not consistent with [his] understanding” of how the Bureau usually requests resources: usually, he said, the FBI will come before the Senate Intelligence Committee to make requests, and not on a case-by-case basis. He said that he will come before the Committee if the Bureau requires further resources for the Russia investigation.