In damage control over Russia ties, Trump condemns FBI ‘leakers’

Trump is ALL-CAPS angry about the latest leak.

Jan 27, 2021, 10:49 pm*

Tech

 

Andrew Couts

President Donald Trump lashed out against the FBI on Friday morning after news of an alleged attempt by top White House staff to use America’s top law enforcement agency to refute media reports about investigations into the Trump campaign’s communication with Russia. 

In a pair of tweets, Trump condemned the FBI for being “totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers,’” including those who work for the agency. 

The president’s statement follows a CNN scoop published on Thursday that reports White House officials, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, asked the FBI to help refute reports that Trump’s campaign staff regularly spoke with Russian officials prior to Election Day, according to unnamed U.S. officials. The Associated Press later confirmed CNN’s report.

The requests followed a conversation at the White House between Priebus and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Feb. 15, the morning after the New York Times reported that Trump campaign staffers were in “repeated” contact with Moscow. The report was based on communications the FBI intercepted during its investigation into Russia’s hacks of the Democratic National Committee. McCabe allegedly told Priebus the Times report overstates what the bureau knows about the Trump campaign’s contact, according to CNN. 

Other White House staff also reportedly reached out to the bureau to request they speak with reporters on background in an attempt to refute the Trump–Russia story, which CNN independently reported. FBI Director James Comey also reportedly refuted the Times story but refused to make a statement about an ongoing investigation.

Communications between the White House and the FBI about this matter would violate Department of Justice rules prohibiting discussions of ongoing investigations. “The White House is simply not permitted to pressure the FBI to make public statements about a pending investigation of the president and his advisers,” Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the House Judiciary Committee’s leading Democrat, told the AP. The DOJ has denied any policy violations in the matter.

After CNN published its initial report, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pushed back against implications of impropriety. “We didn’t try to knock the story down,” he said. “We asked them to tell the truth.”

In an interview with Fox News Sunday last weekend, Priebus refuted the Times report as “garbage” based on “no direct sources.” (The Times cited four unnamed U.S. officials.) 

“The New York Times put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, some treasonous type of accusations,” Priebus said. “We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you and I have been approved to say this—that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it.”

In addition to the FBI, Congress has launched investigations into the Trump campaign’s communication with Russia.

Share this article
*First Published: Feb 24, 2017, 10:12 am