Private conversations between President Donald Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey could be part of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the bureau’s acting head.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe confirmed that such discussions either already are, or are likely to become, part of a criminal investigation in his Wednesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“It seems to me that what you say is either that is part of a criminal investigation or likely to become part of a criminal investigation—the conversation between the President of the United States and Mr. Comey—and, therefore, you cannot properly comment on that,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said to McCabe. “Is that accurate?”
“That’s accurate, sir,” McCabe replied.
Reports have surfaced on several requests Trump allegedly made of Comey that would have violated protocol, including a request that the then-FBI director swear loyalty to him and another that he quash an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
McCabe hedged in response to questions from several senators, including Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Angus King (I-ME), about those conversations and whether McCabe had ever been briefed on them. He said he wanted to give special counsel Robert Mueller broad leeway to determine the parameters of his investigation, which McCabe said Mueller and his team were still “in the process” of doing.
“The FBI maintains a much broader responsibility to continue investigating issues relative to potential Russian intelligence activity and threats posed to us from our Russian adversaries,” McCabe said. “So determining exactly where those lanes in the road are, where does Director Mueller’s scope overlap into our pre-existing and long-running Russian responsibilities is somewhat of a challenge at the moment, and that is why I’m trying to be particularly respectful of his efforts and not take steps that may compromise his investigation.”