Acting FBI Chief Says Russia Probe Isn’t Low Priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disagrees with the White House suggestion that it’s a low priority of the FBI to investigate Russian interference in the election and potential Donald Trump campaign collusion.

McCabe says it’s a “highly significant investigation,” contradicting statements made by the White House downplaying the significance. On Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “probably one of the smallest things” that the FBI has “got going on their plate.”

McCabe tells a Senate panel that he would not describe the investigation that way. Still, McCabe is declining to say exactly how many FBI personnel are involved in the investigation. McCabe says he can’t discuss that in a public setting.

McCabe is also contradicting the White House claim that fired director James Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file members of the bureau.

The White House used that assertion to justify Comey’s firing. But McCabe says the claim is not accurate. He says Comey “enjoyed broad support” within the agency and that he holds Comey in the “absolute highest regard.”

He says it was the “greatest privilege” of his career to serve under him.

The furor over President Donald Trump’s firing of Comey threatens to overshadow the GOP’s legislative agenda on health care, tax reform and more.

Add in a potentially contentious battle over the next FBI director, and the Republicans’ already difficult task of getting bills onto Trump’s desk just got harder.

Even though no Democratic votes will be needed to confirm the next FBI director — since it will take a simple majority vote — the fight is certain to be heated. Democrats and Republicans alike are laying down markers for a candidate of unimpeachable integrity who could restore trust in the bureau.

Past FBI directors, including Comey, have been approved by overwhelming bipartisan margins. Comey was approved on a vote of 93-1 in 2013, with GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky the only dissenting vote

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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