The Post’s Friday bombshell reported:
The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
The episode and the fallout highlight just how problematic is the behavior of the White House — and the politicization of the FBI under Director James B. Comey. Here are seven concerns:
1. Priebus’s attempt to utilize the FBI to refute a story concerning an ongoing investigation of the president and his associates smells of obstruction. If then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch shouldn’t have had a brief social visit with the husband of Hillary Clinton, who was then a subject of an ongoing investigation, there surely shouldn’t be contact between the president’s chief of staff and FBI investigators about the substance of their work. If one needed one more example of Priebus’s lack of judgment and finesse this surely qualifies.
2. The FBI, once again, seems to be partially to blame for politicizing its work. The White House claimed Deputy Director Andrew McCabe initiated the contact with Priebus, telling him the New York Times report about “repeated” contact between Russian officials and the Trump campaign had been exaggerated. Why is the FBI talking to the president’s right-hand man about an ongoing investigation? You got me. McCabe should be recused from the investigation, as should Comey who purportedly blessed Priebus’s TV attack on the New York Times report.
3. In enlisting Senate and House Intelligence Committee chairmen to conduct spin, the White House underscored the chairmen’s conflicts of interest. Congress, especially chairmen of the same party as the president, should not be conducting this critical inquiry — as they spin Trump’s side of the story. We need either an independent commission or an independent prosecutor.
4. Any Republican who wants to disassociate himself or herself with a Trump cover-up and to preserve Congress’s independent authority to conduct oversight must stop carrying Trump’s water. They need to demand he make available his tax returns. They must interview characters such as Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, who may have been working to get Trump deals in Russia as late as 2015. They should demand the president waive attorney-client and executive privileges and instruct all associates to cooperate fully with authorities,.
5. The White House’s ongoing attack on anonymous sources is the height of hypocrisy, another transparent attempt to intimidate the media and dictate how the press does its work. In fact, the two officials who revealed the Priebus-FBI contact and subsequent spin insisted on anonymity. When Priebus went on the Sunday shows a week ago to denounce the reports he too refused to reveal the intelligence sources who had told him the stories were inaccurate. Priebus and Trump should stop grandstanding about anonymous sources. They surely can instruct all administration officials talk on the record to the press. But they won’t because they are now fully committed to an anti-press crusade. The conflict between Trump and the press serves to distract the public from what the media are in the process of revealing about Trump’s Russia associates.
6. For all Trump’s invective about leaking, it is his senior officials who obviously are doing the talking. If he cares to find out who is leaking, he should question them rather than issue blanket threats that chill legitimate whistleblower activity and efforts to prevent the White House from burying the issue.
7. Given all the effort to spin the public and the nonstop leaks, Trump’s claims denying there is anything to be turned up about team Trump’s Russia connections, his insistence that there is nothing to see sure rings hollow. The leaks, the spin coordination, the political recruiting of the FBI to advance the Trump line and the president’s daily fiery denunciations of the media are exactly what you would expect from an administration that has something(s) serious to hide.