White House doesn’t rule out Trump questioned acting FBI director about 2016 vote
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House Wednesday declined to explicitly deny a report that President Donald Trump questioned the former acting director of the FBI about who he voted for in the 2016 presidential election, amid ongoing questions about whether Trump improperly sought a leader for the agency who would be loyal to him and his administration.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that Trump asked Andrew McCabe how he voted during a White House meeting last May, shortly after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. According to the report, which cites “several current and former U.S. officials” and has since been confirmed by ABC News via a source familiar with the encounter, McCabe responded he did not vote in the election. The story also says Trump fumed over McCabe’s wife, who lost a bid for Virginia state senate in 2015, having been supported by a political action committee with ties to a friend of Hillary Clinton.
“The president and Andrew McCabe have had limited and pretty nonsubstantive conversations,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said when asked about the story at Wednesday’s press briefing. “I can’t get into the details of what was discussed. I wasn’t there.”
The report of such a question posed by Trump to McCabe, who led the FBI in an acting capacity for nearly three months before returning to his current position as deputy director upon the confirmation of Christopher Wray as director, is notable given Comey’s claim that Trump expressed a desire for “loyalty” during a meeting between the two in January 2017. Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June that Trump told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” during their conversation; the president has denied the claim.
After first saying she did not know what Trump and McCabe discussed, Sanders forcefully dismissed the suggestion that there was public interest in the report and would not guarantee that she would follow-up with the president to learn additional details.
ABC News reported Tuesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has attempted to convince Wray to replace McCabe with a new deputy, a request that came as Trump openly questioned the political leanings of FBI agents involved in the Russia investigation. The president’s qualms with agents’ allegiances stems from the release of text messages from an FBI agent who later became member of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, in which he called Trump an “idiot,” among other descriptions, in exchanges with an FBI attorney prior to the election. Mueller had the agent removed.
A source familiar with the matter told ABC News in December that McCabe is expected to retire in the coming months.
Mueller has indicated to Trump’s attorneys that his office is interested in having the president answer questions about the dismissals of both Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to lying about his contacts with Russian officials to FBI agents investigating that country’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Last summer, Comey additionally testified that Trump expressed that he hoped the FBI would “let go” of its investigation into Flynn.
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