In the ongoing saga of Trump and his deep ties to Russia, a new wrinkle. According to CNN, the White House tried to put the kibosh on stories published last week concerning evidence that there were in fact ongoing communications between Trump's associates and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
This is, in the words of former VP Joe Biden, a big fcking deal.
CNN has interviewed "multiple federal officials," and found that "the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign."
Now why would they worry about that, again? Oh, perhaps because it's true?
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official. A White House official disputes 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. The 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.
Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Assume that if Reince Preibus is denying it, it's 100 percent true, because that's how this White House rolls. Start to end. As for Comey, he has sort of an interesting standard when it comes to commenting on investigations. Just ask Hillary Clinton about that. But maybe he learned his lesson from his "October Surprise," and has decided mum's the word going forward.
This is also where I put my tinfoil hat on and remind everyone that on the very same weekend that Comey dropped his October bomb, reports were flowing out from everywhere about Russia's influence on the Trump campaign. But her emails, don't you know?
Here's the problem. There are actually rules that prevent these kinds of efforts. They exist so that the FBI and DOJ will not be hampered by political concerns while carrying out investigations. The White House just broke those rules, but that's par for the course when it comes to this administration.
Here are the questions reporters should be asking:
- Who in the White House asked the FBI to quash the investigation?
- Why did they decline now? When they released that October claim about more emails, the FBI also reportedly downplayed any Russian-Trump connection via leaks to the press.
- What is it going to take to get an independent commission to investigate this scandal?
What worried me most about Trump ascending to the White House was that he would have the access and power to bury the bodies (metaphorically speaking, of course) connected with Vladimir Putin's interference in the election. This story confirms that my fears were not ill-founded.
Update: Many are pointing out that this is nothing less than obstruction of justice. Here's the statute describing it. Sure does seem to fit the mold...