Congressional Russia investigators grill FBI deputy director

Andrew McCabe testifies for at least seven hours

(CNN) - FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was grilled by the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Tuesday amid Republican calls for his firing -- but he was defended by some key lawmakers.

Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican leading the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, said he still has confidence in McCabe as deputy director.

"I have no reason not to," Conaway told CNN on Tuesday when asked if he has confidence in McCabe.

McCabe testified before the House intelligence panel for at least seven hours on Tuesday after a scheduling issue initially delayed the interview one week prior.

The deputy director has been on the hot seat with Republicans, who have raised questions about whether he should have been recused from the Hillary Clinton email investigation over alleged ethical conflicts surrounding his wife. Jill McCabe was a Democrat who ran for political office in Virginia and received contributions from then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons.

McCabe has also faced Republican scrutiny over text messages sent by FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team earlier this year after an internal Department of Justice inspector general investigation found he had exchanged anti-Trump messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

In a text from August 15, 2016, Strzok told Page: "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office" -- an apparent reference to McCabe -- "that there's no way he gets elected -- but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40 .... "

GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina referred to the text message in an appearance Tuesday on Fox News: "The deputy director of the FBI, there are a ton of questions, including the meeting between Agent Strzok, Lisa Page and Andy's office, and if they were coming up with an insurance policy in case Donald Trump won --- that's devastating."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who's long been a critic of McCabe, has said he wants him out at the FBI. "The answer is yes," Grassley said Tuesday when asked if he wanted him gone.

Democrats have defended McCabe. Rep. Adam Schiff, of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday evening that calls for McCabe's firing were "irresponsible."

"My experience has been that he has been a professional FBI agent and works with an impressive team of other agents," Schiff told reporters. "And I don't know that I understand the calls that I've heard from some to fire him. They seem to be irresponsible, in my view."

Schiff declined to comment on McCabe's testimony Tuesday.

The FBI deputy director may not be done on Capitol Hill after Tuesday. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, and Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, sent the Justice Department a letter Tuesday evening calling for McCabe and other senior FBI officials to be interviewed by investigators on their committees.


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