The word for it is ‘collusion’. When the White House Chief of Staff contacts the Assistant Director of the FBI and asks him to comment in a specific manner about an ongoing investigation into possibly illegal activities by White House officials, that is collusion. It is illegal, improper, unacceptable behaviour by a government official.
After a 14 February story ran in the New York Times stating that the investigation into the Russian hacking of the DNC last year had turned up conversations between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials, Reince Priebus contacted FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe, and asked him to de-bunk the Times story. Allegedly, McCabe told Priebus that the story was inaccurate, at which point Priebus requested that McCabe announce that conclusion publicly. McCabe later, presumably after speaking with his boss, FBI Director James Comey, contacted Priebus and told him that he could not make a public statement at this time, but that Priebus could cite “senior intelligence officials” as saying there was “nothing to” the Times story.
The intelligence community, including the FBI, obviously believes, and has stated, that there is something to the story, else they would not be investigating it. Congress has launched its own investigation, thus they obviously believe there is something to the story. Neither Priebus nor McCabe had any right to have that conversation, and both should be terminated. Priebus took his show on the road on Sunday, when during an interview with Meet the Press, he said that the “top levels of the intelligence community” assured him the Times story was “not only inaccurate” but “grossly overstated” and “wrong.”
If White House officials, including Trump, Bannon, Conway, Spicer and Priebus spent half as much time doing actual work, doing what we, their employers, need them to be doing as they spend worrying about what people are saying about them, then people might not have as much to criticize. As best I can tell, the entire past month has been a cluster of ‘he said, she said’, the press is the enemy, the Democrats are our enemies, the public is rude to us, and ranting over every perceived slight.
Trump only made matters worse this morning when he tweeted “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. 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.”
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.” When communication has to occur, the memo said, it should involve only the highest-level officials from the White House and the Justice Department.
The FBI is but one of 17 intelligence agencies in the U.S., all of whom have a role in this investigation. One would think Director James Comey would have learned a lesson after his ‘October Surprise’ that cost Hillary Clinton her lead, and likely the election. But apparently, commenting on ongoing investigations is the new normal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and unfortunately, it casts a shadow on their credibility.