White House slams 'hack' Comey, 'liar' McCabe after report of secret FBI probe of possible Trump link to Russians
New York Times: FBI opened counterintelligence probe on Trump to investigate potential of him working with Russia
The White House lashed out against “disgraced partisan hack” James Comey and “known liar” Andrew McCabe on Friday after a report that the FBI -- after President Trump fired Comey as the bureau's director -- opened a secret inquiry into whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.
The investigators working on the inquiry had to assess whether Trump’s actions could constitute a possible national security threat. The agency tried to determine whether the president was working for Russia or had fallen under the Kremlin’s influence, the New York Times reported.
The probe into Trump also looked into possible criminality, in particular the May 2017 firing of Comey and whether that could be deemed an obstruction of justice.
The White House immediately pushed back against the report, calling the insinuations of working for Russia “absurd” and pointed to the administration's record toward Russia.
"This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI."— White House press secretary Sarah Sanders
“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push American around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia,” she added.
The allegation of the FBI opening a counterintelligence investigation into Trump may cause a further rift between the bureau and the president, who in the past has criticized the agency’s senior leadership, alleging an anti-Trump bias.
Among those FBI officials accused of bias were former senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who was fired amid revelations of his anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton text messages with another FBI official, Lisa Page.
McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, meanwhile, was fired in March ahead of his planned retirement following a bombshell report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz that claimed McCabe lied to investigators and his then-boss Comey at least four times, three of them under oath.
The former deputy director reportedly authorized a leak to a newspaper reporter about the contents of a telephone call on August 2016 in order cast himself in a positive light in an upcoming story about an investigation involving Hillary Clinton.
According to the Times, senior FBI officials became suspicious of Trump and his alleged ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign but decided not to pursue an investigation at the time. The president’s decisions and the firing of Comey prompted the agency to launch the inquiry.
The FBI investigation has since been taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. There’s no indication that Mueller is continuing to pursue the counterintelligence matter.
Former law enforcement officials told the newspaper that the criminal and counterintelligence elements of the investigation were combined because Trump’s firing of the FBI director could constitute both a crime and a national security threat as it would hinder the agency’s abilities to learn how the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election.
“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” James A. Baker, who served as FBI general counsel until late 2017, said during private testimony before House investigators in October, according to the Times.