"WASHINGTON — The acting director of the F.B.I. contradicted the White House on two major issues on Thursday, the support of rank-and-file agents for the fired F.B.I. chief James B. Comey and the importance of its investigation into Russian election interference.
In a striking repudiation of official White House statements, the acting director, Andrew G. McCabe, said the inquiry was “highly significant” and pledged during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the F.B.I. would resist any attempt to influence or hobble the investigation.
“Simply put,” he said, “you cannot stop the men and women of the F.B.I. from doing the right thing.”
That Mr. McCabe felt compelled to make those assertions was itself remarkable, a product of the unusually public effort by Mr. Trump and his aides to take public focus off the investigations into Russia’s election meddling.
The unfolding story of Mr. Trump’s dramatic firing of Mr. Comey hung over the hearing, the topic of which was the biggest threats facing the United States. The White House has offered several explanations for why Mr. Comey was dismissed, including that he poorly handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and that agents had lost confidence in their leader.
The claims have been greeted with widespread skepticism in Washington, and Mr. McCabe did not hesitate to make clear where Mr. Comey stood in the eyes of F.B.I. agents and employees.
“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the F.B.I. and still does to this day,” he said, adding that “the vast majority of F.B.I. employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.”