Trump tried to influence FBI investigation of Russia ties

CNN is reporting that the Trump White House violated federal rules by attempting to influence an ongoing investigation by the FBI (and other agencies) into contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign staff and other associates and Russian intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.

CNN reports that the Trump White House wanted the FBI and other agencies to help kill news stories about the contacts by going public and claiming that there were no such contacts.

In fact, the FBI and other agencies were and are investigating just that question, whether and to what degree there were contacts between Trump’s associates and Russian intelligence during the campaign. So the FBI refused.

In other words, the Trump White House contacted the FBI during an ongoing investigation and pressured the FBI to issue a conclusion about that investigation that was contrary to fact. Not only is such action inappropriate on its face, but it also violates federal rules that were put in place to preclude exactly this kind of scenario, where a White House attempts to influence an ongoing investigation of itself.

What’s particularly odd about this is it’s just not credible that the White House didn’t know the investigation was taking place. It had already been reported on in the NYT and by CNN. Surely, if the White House hadn’t know about the investigation before the stories came out, once it was reported they checked with their sources at FBI and elsewhere to confirm that in fact the investigation was ongoing. That means White House chief of staff Reince Priebus knowingly asked the deputy director of the FBI to lie, which potentially could have affected the investigation by other agencies and by Congress — if the FBI says it’s not true, that carries weight. And that would constitute interference with multiple investigations.

CNN has more:

The Trump administration’s efforts to press Comey run contrary to Justice Department procedure memos issued in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI.

“Initial communications between the [Justice] Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President, or the Vice President from the side of the White House,” reads the 2009 memo.

The memos say the communication should only happen when it is important for the President’s duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.

It’s ironic that the FBI refused to go along with Trump’s pressure, as FBI Director James Comey is widely credited with helping put Donald Trump in office. I had argued a few weeks ago that we should stop calling for Comey to resign, as Comey just might surprise us by being a fair player in dealing with Trump, if only because he needs to clear his record and show that he truly is non-partisan. And so far, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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