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Tuesday , January 21 2020

Russia probe continues: McCabe – Stunned agents grapple with Comey firing

A handout photo made available by the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 10, shows US President Donald J. Trump (right), speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. Trump on May 10 called on Russia to rein in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his key ally Iran, as Washington and Moscow sought to boost their fragile ties with high-profile White House talks. Lavrov, the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Washington since Trump came to power in January, earned a rare invitation to the Oval Office for a head-to-head with the Republican president. (AFP)

WASHINGTON, May 11, (Agencies): The FBI’s investigation into possible links between Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election continues despite Trump’s firing of James Comey, the director’s replacement said Thursday.

“There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,” acting FBI director Andrew McCabe told a Senate panel two days after Comey was dismissed. “You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing.” Meanwhile, former Republican congressman Mike Rogers is being considered as a candidate to replace for FBI Director James Comey, who was fired on Tuesday, a senior White House official said. Rogers is a former chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee and was an FBI agent in his home state of Michigan. FBI agents are still reeling from Director James Comey’s unceremonious dismissal, their surprise at the manner of his ouster coupled with questions about who will next lead the bureau.

Many agents working in field offices across the country learned Tuesday about their director’s firing in much the same way he did: from news reports that fl ashed on television screens and buzzed on phones. They privately described a day afterward spent processing the news, swapping praise about their former boss, and grappling with angst that Comey wasn’t given a chance to notify employees. Many saw him as a strong and supportive leader even if some believed he at times set the bureau on the wrong path. And many did not want to see him go, especially in the midst of the bureau’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s meddling in the election.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that “countless” FBI employees had lost faith in Comey’s leadership. But the president of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O’Connor, said he was known to be responsive to their concerns, and he called the firing a “gut punch.” As part of the backup for the firing, the White House released a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that blasted Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, namely his announcement that Clinton should not be charged before reopening the investigation days before voters went to the polls. That placed FBI agents in an uncomfortable position of having their historically apolitical work thrust into the center of a national election. Retired FBI assistant director Ron Hosko said some agents believed Comey went too far. “There are those voices inside, but I think he still enjoyed broad support and great respect by the workforce,” Hosko said. In New York, where Comey once headed the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, agents were told stories about the former director, including how he used to call agents’ cell phones to congratulate them after finishing big cases, said a current official.

Most current employees spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of restrictions about interactions with the media. Across the FBI’s field offices, Comey was known for a plainspoken speaking style, peppering prepared remarks with avuncular advice, life lessons and humor. His casual demeanor — he’d regularly appear without a suit coat at freewheeling meetings with reporters, dabbled with Twitter and joked often about the toll the job had taken on his imposing height — served for many agents as a welcome change from the bureau’s historically buttoned-up culture.

At speaking appearances, he’d urge young agents to relish their lives outside the FBI, demanding that they take time to tend to their families — and to sleep. He’d say how he strove to be sensitive to the feelings of subordinates, aware that cross words or a bored look during a conversation could “hurt them in ways that would last.” A farewell letter from Comey that circulated among friends and colleagues said he does not plan to dwell on the decision to fire him or on “the way it was executed.” He said in the letter that though he’ll be fine, he will miss the FBI and its mission “deeply.” Comey said that “in times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence.”

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