White House Pressuring FBI Raises More Questions For Both Of Them
I’m not the first person to make this point but it’s a point worth repeating. CNN has reported that the White House, specifically Reince Priebus, asked or perhaps pressured the FBI to publicly refute the reports from the New York Times, CNN, and other sources that the members of the Trump campaign were in frequent contact with the Russians during the 2016 election.
The CNN story says that a conversation between Priebus and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe began as an aside to a separate White House meeting. McCabe is reported not to have discussed the details of the FBI’s Russian investigation but it is not clear exactly what discussed. At some point later, Priebus reached out to McCabe and to (the infamous) FBI Director James Comey to ask them to either publicly or on background refute the details in the Times and elsewhere about the contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the election. Comey refused Priebus’ request because Trump’s Russian ties are under investigation. Let the irony of that sink in for a minute. The contact by Priebus appears to violate DOJ procedural memos that restrict the communications between the White House and the FBI regarding ongoing investigations.
The Trump administration initially disputed this report, saying that Priebus was called earlier in the morning by McCabe who indicated that those stories overstated what the FBI believed to be true. Of course, this was a lie and the White House had to walk this back a short time later. The present story out of the White House is that McCabe initiated the conversation indicating that reports were inaccurate at the White House meeting. Armed with that knowledge, Priebus merely asked the FBI to correct the record either publicly or off the record with reporters. There was no attempt to “pressure” the FBI to make a statement. And, since the discussions only concerned public news stories and not the investigation itself, there was no violation of those DOJ procedures. That seems like just semantics to me.
Whether you believe the White House or not, this does not look good for either the White House or the FBI. If you believe the White House version, the question becomes what was the Deputy Director of the FBI doing discussing an ongoing investigation with Priebus. And, regardless of whether you believe CNN or the White House, Priebus was clearly pressuring the FBI to release a statement about an ongoing investigation, which comes perilously close to an obstruction of justice.
Considering the FBI’s remarkable interference in the last election, both of the above options reflect badly on the FBI and the Trump team. If the FBI is briefing the White House on its investigation of Trump advisers, it would be just another example of the FBI colluding with the Trump team. If Priebus felt free to pressure the FBI to deny the story, it indicates that someone in the White House was quite comfortable in asking the FBI to put out a statement that exonerated the Trump team. That certainly sounds quite similar to what happened when the FBI put out a statement right before the election that the agency had no indications that there were contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That statement, we know now, was false.
Either way, this just adds to the smoke that surrounds the FBI, the Trump team, and connections to Russia. And today’s press briefing that excluded news outlets that have reported on those Russian connections just fans those glowing embers creating that smoke further.
[I’ve also written about this and other issues on my personal blog at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com]