May 11 (UPI) — The interim leader of the Federal Bureau of Investigation told a Senate committee Thursday that he will report any effort to undermine the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s alleged election interference.
Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe made the remarks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing related to its investigation of Kremlin electoral efforts.
McCabe, 48, the bureau’s second-in-command, assumed control of the agency on Tuesday after President Donald Trump fired James Comey. He will remain in that role until a permanent replacement is named.
Trump’s move to fire Comey drew widespread criticism from Democrats this week, many of whom said the move makes it look like the president is attempting to sidetrack the probe by dispatching one of its top leaders.
McCabe said any such effort on his watch won’t be tolerated.
“For as long as you are acting FBI director, do you commit to informing this committee of any effort to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign?” Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked.
“I absolutely do,” McCabe answered.
The panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, also asked McCabe if Comey had ever told Trump he wasn’t being investigated, as Trump said in his termination letter to Comey.
“Did you ever hear Director Comey tell the president that he was not the subject of an investigation?” Burr asked.
“I can’t comment on any conversations the director may have had with the president,” McCabe replied.
McCabe was joined at the hearing by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, NSA chief Mike Rogers, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency head Robert Cardillo and Defense Intelligence Agency chief Vincent Stewart.
All six agency chiefs told the panel that Moscow acted last year to steer the election in Trump’s favor.
At one point during the hearing, Burr and Warner left to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a secure room. Rosenstein was one of two Justice Department officials who recommended Comey’s firing this week.
The Senate probe is one of three U.S. investigations into Russian interference in the election. The House Intelligence Committee and Justice Department are running concurrent inquiries.
Pompeo, having taken office in January, and Coats, who started the job in March, each testified that their agencies have a handle on the country’s top national security matters.
“Russians have spread this across the globe,” Coats said of reputed Kremlin efforts to act against foreign governments. “The Russians have upped their game using social media and other opportunities that we — in ways that we haven’t seen before. So it’s a great threat to our democratic process.”
Warner also pointed to alleged Russian meddling in France’s election, which U.S. officials believe was intended to sway the vote for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Those efforts didn’t work, as Emmanuel Macron handily won the French vote.
“It felt like deja vu all over again,” Warner said.