The Slatest

Ex-FBI Chief Says Trump Believed Russia Over U.S. Intelligence: “I Believe Putin”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police before a meeting with members of the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees in the Rayburn House Office Building December 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police before a meeting with members of the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees in the Rayburn House Office Building December 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said that President Donald Trump believed the Kremlin over his own intelligence agencies. McCabe, who took over the FBI after Trump fired James Comey in 2017, made the stunning revelation in an interview with 60 Minutes. The former acting FBI chief said the president chose to believe Moscow during a meeting about North Korea’s weapons capability. Trump told officials that he didn’t believe that North Korea had missiles that could strike the U.S. mainland despite what his own intelligence agencies said. The reason for his skepticism? Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him it wasn’t the case.

“The president launched into several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea. And, essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles,” McCabe said. Intelligence officials who were at the briefing said that they believed otherwise. “To which the president replied, ‘I don’t care. I believe Putin’,” McCabe said.

McCabe wasn’t at the meeting but he says he was shocked when he heard about the comments from a colleague. “It’s just an astounding thing to say,” McCabe said, noting that it reflected a complete lack of confidence on the intelligence professionals who were part of his administration. “To be confronted with an absolute disbelief in those efforts and an unwillingness to learn the true state of affairs that he has to deal with every day was just shocking,” McCabe said.

Trump, who had already angrily responded to excerpts of the interview that were released late last week, once again went on the offensive Monday morning. “Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged,” Trump tweeted. The president went on to accuse McCabe and Rod Rosenstein of “planning a very illegal act.” Trump was likely referring to another point of McCabe’s interview in which he claimed Department of Justice officials discussed the possibility of removing the president from office using the 25th Amendment.

Sen. Lindsey Graham reacted with shock at McCabe’s claim, saying it could amount to an “attempted bureaucratic coup” against the president. “It’s stunning to me that one of the chief law enforcement officers of the land, the acting head of the FBI, would go on national television and say ‘Oh by the way, I remember a conversation with the deputy attorney general about trying to find if we could replace the president under the 25th amendment,’” Graham said in an interview Sunday.