White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to refute stories circulating about the Trump administration’s potential ties to the Kremlin. Priebus reportedly was trying to get the FBI to release a statement countering media stories that reported Trump’s campaign staff having contact with Russia’s government during the election.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that the request took place, but said the administration had no other options available. Spicer said the FBI told the White House there were inaccuracies in the news reports. According to Roll Call, one White House senior adviser said officials in the FBI called the reports “bull—-.”
“I don’t know what else we were supposed to do,” Spicer said. “The chief of staff said, well, you’ve put us in a very difficult situation. You’ve told us that a story that made some fairly significant accusations was not true. And now you want us to just sit out there.”
The request from Priebus was directed at Assistant Director Andrew McCabe. Priebus and McCabe were meeting regarding a separate issue when Priebus inquired about the FBI making a statement. McCabe later called Priebus back and told him, “We’d love to help but we can’t get into the position of making statements on every story.”
The Justice Department has guidelines which prohibit collusion between the FBI and the White House. The request by Priebus may have violated procedures that are put in place during on-going investigations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for an investigation into the matter.
For his part, President Trump has been unhappy with the numerous amount of leaks surrounding his administration and other government agencies, including the FBI. In a tweet blast he slammed the investigative body for failing to keep information secret.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time,” Trump said in two tweets. “They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.”
However, the leaks may be more difficult to plug than Trump thinks. For example, Spicer did an unannounced check of staffers’ phones yesterday to check for leaks. The leak check was promptly leaked.
[AP] [Roll Call] [CNN] [Politico] [Fox News] [Photo courtesy Doug Mills/New York Times]