Acting FBI director calls Trump-Russia investigation 'highly significant'

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 11, 2017, while testifying before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disagrees with the White House suggestion that it's a low priority of the FBI to investigate Russian interference in the election and potential Trump campaign collusion.

McCabe says it's a "highly significant investigation," contradicting statements made by the White House downplaying the significance. On Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was "probably one of the smallest things" that the FBI has "got going on their plate."

McCabe tells a Senate panel that he would not describe the investigation that way. Still, McCabe is declining to say exactly how many FBI personnel are involved in the investigation. McCabe says he can't discuss that in a public setting.

President Donald Trump says ousted FBI Director James Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation, but the acting FBI director is telling Congress that's not standard practice.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins serves on the Senate intelligence committee. Collins asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe if the FBI typically tells people that they are not a target of investigation.

McCabe said he couldn't comment on what Comey might or might not have told the president, but that it's not standard practice to inform someone that they are not a target.

McCabe is contradicting the White House claim that fired director James Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file members of the bureau.

The White House used that assertion to justify Comey's firing. But McCabe says the claim is not accurate. He says Comey "enjoyed broad support" within the agency and that he holds Comey in the "absolute highest regard."

He says it was the "greatest privilege" of his career to serve under him.

He has agreed to refrain from updating the White House about an investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

He was made acting director Tuesday evening following the firing of director James Comey. Justice Department leaders are interviewing other contenders for the position.

Earlier he would not confirm President Donald Trump's assertions that Comey had told him multiple times that he was not under investigation.

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