Archive for Friday, February 24, 2017

White House defends asking FBI to dispute media reports about Russia

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on Air Force One while traveling to Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on Air Force One while traveling to Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

February 24, 2017, 1:13 p.m. Updated February 24, 2017, 4:29 p.m.

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— The White House on Friday defended chief of staff Reince Priebus against accusations he breached a government firewall when he asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that Trump campaign advisers had been frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents.

President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, argued Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey's assistance in rebutting what Spicer said were inaccurate reports about contacts during last year's presidential campaign. The FBI did not issue the statement requested by Priebus and has given no sign one is forthcoming.

"I don't know what else we were supposed to do," Spicer said.

The Justice Department has policies in place to limit communications between the White House and the FBI about pending investigations. Trump officials on Friday not only confirmed contacts between Priebus and the FBI, but engaged in an extraordinary public airing of those private conversations.

Spicer said it was the FBI that first approached the White House about the veracity of a New York Times story asserting that Trump advisers had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the presidential campaign. Spicer said Priebus then asked both FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if they would condemn the story publicly, which they declined to do.

"The chief of staff said, well, you've put us in a very difficult situation," Spicer said. "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 FBI would not comment on the matter or verify the White House account.

Friday's revelations were the latest wrinkle in Trump's already complicated relationship with the FBI and other intelligence agencies. He's accused intelligence officials of releasing classified information about him to the media, declaring in a tweet Friday morning that the FBI was "totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Priebus of "an outrageous breach of the FBI's independence" and called on the Justice Department's inspector general to look into all conversations Priebus and other White House officials have held with the FBI on ongoing investigations.

"The rule of law depends on the FBI's complete independence, free from political pressure from the targets of its investigations," Pelosi said.

A 2009 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is to advise the White House on pending criminal or civil investigations "only when it is important for the performance of the president's duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective."

Ron Hosko, a retired FBI assistant director who oversaw criminal investigations, said the discussions between the FBI and the Trump White House were inadvisable.

"It is a very slippery slope," Hosko said. "Do I get in the position of where I'm updating the White House on my priority criminal cases? The answer is no, I should not be doing that."

Other FBI veterans said the interactions between Priebus and the FBI were not unprecedented. Robert Anderson, a retired executive assistant director who served under Comey and oversaw counterintelligence investigations, said contacts between the bureau and White House are "usually very-well documented" in order to avoid the perception of inappropriate contacts.

CNN first reported that Priebus had asked the FBI for help, and a White House official confirmed the matter to The Associated Press Thursday night. On Friday morning, two other senior White House officials summoned reporters to a briefing to expand on the timeline of events.

The White House officials would only discuss the matter on the condition of anonymity. Two hours later, Trump panned news stories that rely on anonymous sources, telling a conservative conference that reporters "shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name."

Spicer later briefed some reporters on the record. The Associated Press declined to participate in that briefing because some major news organizations were not invited, but an account was posted by a reporter who was present.

Trump has been shadowed by questions about potential ties to Russia since winning the election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign in an effort to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

On Feb. 14, The New York Times reported that intelligence agencies had collected phone records and call intercepts showing frequent communication between Trump advisers and Russian intelligence agents during the campaign. Trump has said he is not aware of such contacts.

The White House says Priebus was holding a previously scheduled meeting with McCabe the morning after the Times story was published. According to Spicer, McCabe told Priebus in "very colorful terms" that the report was inaccurate, prompting the chief of staff to ask if the FBI would make its view known publicly.

Spicer said McCabe told the White House the bureau did not want to be in the practice of rebutting news stories. A similar message was conveyed to Priebus later in the day by Comey, according to the White House spokesman.

The White House said McCabe and Comey instead gave Priebus the go-ahead to discredit the story publicly, something the FBI has not confirmed.

Priebus alluded to his contacts with the FBI over the weekend, telling Fox News that "the top levels of the intelligence community" had assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were "not only grossly overstated but also wrong."

During the campaign, Trump and other Republicans strongly criticized a meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, husband of Trump's general election opponent. The meeting came as the FBI — which is overseen by the Justice Department — was investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private email address and personal internet server.

Spicer said he was not aware of an FBI investigation into Trump campaign advisers' contacts with Russia. Administration officials have acknowledged that the FBI interviewed ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn about his communications with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the transition.

Flynn was fired after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about the content of those conversations.

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months, 4 weeks ago

The FBI just needs to tell the truth, period!

Greg Cooper 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Yes, absolutely. But, Dorothy, So does the White House. And they don't seem to be able to do so.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I've given up on the present White House telling the truth. Trump was caught in so many lies before he was elected, but people voted for him anyway. Perhaps he will reach a point where they will finally wake up, but I'm not counting on that. I'm counting on someone with some morality to finally step forward and do what is right.

Calvin Anders 7 months, 4 weeks ago

We are starting to see the Trump administration grow in audacity. They are starting to limit access to briefings, barring media outlets that report unwelcome stories. This administration believes they are above guidelines, about regulations and above the law. And until Congress stops ignoring this administration's misdeeds (in some insane rationalization that maintaining party unity will excuse their lack of action), the Trump administration will effectively be able to ignore the Constitution and the rule of law. But Trump is a greedy, infantile flimflam artist who has surrounded himself with short sighted, politically inept sycophants who's agendas are so greedy and limited that they will never be able to govern effectively. If Congress allows Trump to continue his illegal behavior much longer, the damage may take decades to undo.

Harlan Hobbs 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Sorry, liberals, but this story is now being debunked. It was Andrew McCabe, 2nd in command at the FBI and a Democrat who supported Hillary as well as his own wife's failed candidacy for a legislative position in Virginia, who called Mr. Priebus initially. He told Mr. Priebus that the FBI could find no evidence to support the NYT story that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians during the election.

When Mr. Priebus asked, "What do you want me to do about it?", Mr. McCabe asked him to call him back to discuss it. That's when Mr. Priebus called Mr. McCabe and someone leaked it to the press. CNN ran with the story, even though they now admit that the FBI has found no evidence to support the NYT story.

Do a little investigating and you will get the truth. Meanwhile, keep ranting and raving as you dig a bigger grave for the Democratic Party, who will probably pick an anti-Semitic Muslim congressman from Minnesota as their new DNC chairman.

MerriAnnie Smith 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Which media did you get that story from?

You sound like someone who might take a far right media's word over the NYT. That's why I ask.

Until mainstream media supports your story, I'll hold off on believing it. Not that I think it can't be true, but I've learned not to fall for unsupported claims from the right.

MerriAnnie Smith 7 months, 4 weeks ago

I tried to find your version online and didn't find it. I did find this at: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/fbi-refused-white-house-request-to-knock-down-recent-trump-russia-stories/

quote: "The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts.

But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.

The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus."


So it seems what you're saying isn't true and the White House admitted they lied....

Greg Cooper 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Alternative facts serve you well, don't they, Harlan?

Michael Kort 7 months, 4 weeks ago

Look up the word mania and you will find the definition of Donald Trump !

Mania is a mental symptom of some mental disorder .

He is on the campaign trail asking the Russians to release the rest (?) of Hillary Clinton's emails ?.......No,......nobody on the Trump campaign is contacting the Russians........and both the sun and the moon come up in the west and set in the east.......and the sun really orbits the earth.......and whatever anyone says about that is a media lie !

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months, 4 weeks ago

We are starting to see the horror of the Trump administration emulating the Third Reich.

Trump wants to silence the media. Hitler killed people in the media.

Trump wants to find who is "blowing the whistle" on his "administration" Hitler directed the courts to identify the persons revealing just what Hitler was and opposing his bloody rule. And then execute them by hanging them on wire nooses and filming their agony for Hitler to enjoy.

I could go on and on. But I know that there are those who fail to see the growing fascist dictator that has managed to get into the White House.

Go on, let's hear it........LIBERAL, LIBERAL, LIBERAL!!!! Rave on for as long as you are allowed to.

Brock Masters 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Fred, did you compare Obama to Hitler when he silenced Fox News for their negative reporting of him?

Most of what you and others criticize Trump does is exactly the same thing Obama did.

Same with the criticism of the Tea Party. You and others sound exactly like them. You should be proud.

Remember when Obama was caught on a hot mic telling the Russian official to give him some time until after the election? Had that been Trump it'd been the main stream story for months instead of a blip.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months, 3 weeks ago

When did Obama ban Fox from a white house briefing? Never. He may have ignored or criticized them, but he didn't ban them.

Yes, we are taking hints from the tea party, and you can't stand it, can you. You tea party people are saying it's okay for you to go to town hall meetings and have protests, but the rest of us can't? Hypocrite much?

He told a Russian official that he didn't want to make any negotiations until he was reelected? You are mad about that, even though you supported blocking his nomination to the Supreme Court. And do the Russians hate Obama and Clinton or do they like them? You are getting things all mixed up again. Go tell the people who give you your talking points, Britefart, the druggie, etc. that they really need to keep their stories straight.

Brock Masters 7 months, 3 weeks ago

From NYT - sound familiar? "There followed, beginning in earnest more than two weeks ago, an intensified volley of White House comments describing Fox as “not a news network.”

Here is one of the many links on Obama's war with Fox https://libertywritersnews.com/2017/02/liberal-hypocrisy-look-cnn-reacted-president-obama-banned-fox-news/

And does it matter if they are banned or just ignored and not allowed to participate. Nope same outcome. And I didn't say banned I said silenced. Reading comprehension is important.

I can stand all you've got to give, but my point is your a hypocrite because you criticize and then do the same thing.

I thought it was stupid and wrong to oppose Obama before he did anything and not to hold a hearing on his SCOTUS nominee. Didn't want the guy appointed, but don't block the process.

I have no idea if the Russians like Obama or Hillary. Doesn't matter.

Funny how you resort to childish tactics by trying to put words in my mouth. Show me where I supported blocking the SCOTUS nominee. You fail when you resort to lying. But at least you're consistent.

Mike Davis 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Fred, you are the typical liberal who can't defend the stupidity of your arguments so you resort to name calling and slander. All Trump has done is call some news organizations for what they are, fake news (aka slander and lies) stories with no hard facts to back it up. I'm with Trump, kick their butts out of the WH press conference and allow those medias that print the facts not lies. News medias that print lies are the enemy of the people. As for your Hitler argument ( aka name calling). Hitler took over all news and information in the public domain of Germany and killed anyone who dared to oppose the his Third Reich. Trump kicks a few news organization out the WH press Conf because they print fake ( aka lies) news in their papers and liberals start dropping a load in their diapers.

Bob Summers 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I've always loved movies about con men. I think con men are as American as apple pie.

Bill Paxton

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months, 3 weeks ago

When the real truth emerges, the fascist trumpet section is heard. When the events are carefully and truthfully presented, the liars club appears. This guy (Trump) is the biggest liar of al with all the fraudulent promises and lies he spouted to flummox the citizens with half brains into voting for a fascist illegitimate candidate .

Very, very funny!!!......the pots calling the kettles black!!!.

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