Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr on Thursday gave a forceful defense of ousted FBI Director James Comey after being informed that President Donald Trump had just called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”
“I find him to be one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” the North Carolina Republican said of Comey. “The lion’s share of FBI employees respect the former director.”
Burr’s panel is investigating Russia’s election meddling and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign. Burr said Comey had provided his committee “more access to information than any director of the FBI.”
Burr’s remarks came at a news briefing with his panel’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner, who shook his head in disbelief when told by a reporter that Trump had hurled insults at Comey.
“Frankly, I’m offended at the president’s comments today,” Warner said. “This is a continuing act of disrespecting the men and women who serve in the intelligence community.”
The Virginia senator noted that while he disagreed with the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email scandal, he never called for his resignation.
Trump on Thursday told NBC News he planned to fire Comey regardless of what Justice Department officials recommended.
“He’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago, it hasn’t recovered from that.”
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Thursday told the Senate Intelligence panel that “Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
Comey has been invited to appear in a closed session before the committee on Tuesday.