East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, February 25, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 11A, Image 11

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Saturday, February 25, 2017
East Oregonian
Page 11A
White House defends contacts with FBI over Russia reports
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 poli-
cies in place to limit communica-
tions between the White House and
the FBI about pending investiga-
tions. 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
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 conver-
sations 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
A 2009 memo from then-At-
torney 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
Ron Hosko, a retired FBI assis-
tant 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
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.
Trump blasts media, anonymous sources — after White House uses them
— President Donald Trump
unloaded on the news media
Friday for using anonymous
sources — just hours after
members of his own staff
insisted on briefing reporters
only on condition their names
be concealed.
Unleashing a line of
attack that energized an
enthusiastic crowd at the
nation’s largest gathering of
conservative activists, Trump
said unethical reporters
“make up stories and make
up sources.”
allowed to use sources unless
they use somebody’s name,”
he declared. “Let their name
be put out there.”
Trump told the Conser-
Political Action
Conference that while not all
reporters are bad, the “fake
news” crowd “doesn’t repre-
sent the people. It will never
represent the people and
we’re going to do something
about it.”
Trump didn’t expand
on what he had in mind or
which news organizations
he was talking about. But
his broadsides represented
an escalation of his running
battle against the press,
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at the
Conservative Political Action Conference Friday.
which he has taken to calling
“the opposition party.”
The president has chafed
at a number of anony-
mously sourced stories,
including numerous reports
describing contacts between
his campaign advisers and
Russian intelligence agents,
which the White House has
sharply disputed.
However, members of his
White House team regularly
demand anonymity when
talking to reporters. That
was the case Friday morning
when Trump officials briefed
reporters on chief of staff
Reince Priebus’ contact with
top FBI officials concerning
the Russia reports.
Trump’s speech, several
news organizations including
The New York Times, The
Los Angeles Times, CNN and
Politico were blocked from
joining a White House media
gaggle, according to news
The Associated Press
chose not to participate
following the move by
White House press secretary
Sean Spicer. Lauren Easton,
the AP’s director of media
relations, said in a statement:
“The AP believes the public
should have as much access
to the president as possible.”
at CPAC represented a
triumph for both speaker and
audience — each ascendant
after years when they were
far from the center of the
political universe.
Elizabeth Connors of
New York recalled past
gatherings as collections of
the “downtrodden.”
Today, she said, “it’s ener-
gized” after years in which
“we’ve been just pushed
down, pushed down, pushed
Nicholas Henderson of
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was
there in his “Make America
Great Again” hat and
pronounced Trump’s speech
“He touched on a lot of
things we’d already heard
before, which is reassuring,
tells us he’s still committed
to those promises he made
Henderson said.
Trump, who first appeared
at CPAC as a reality TV star
six years ago, recalled his
past visits with nostalgia,
saying the crowd helped
put him on the path to the
ments are “essential to good
reporting” in many cases.
“There are just some
things that people will come
forward about anonymously
that they cannot discuss
openly,” Leslie said, citing
potential threats to jobs and
even personal safety.
The Associated Press
uses anonymous sources
only if the material is factual
information, not opinion or
speculation, and is vital to
the news report. It must come
from a person who is reliable
and in a position to have
accurate information.
Long ago, Trump himself
played fast and loose with
sourcing. In the 1990s, when
his personal life was tabloid
fodder, a “spokesman”
who identified himself as
John Miller, would call to
offer details about the busi-
nessman’s failing marriage
and the girlfriends he was
But The Washington Post
reported it was actually
Trump, posing as his own
publicist. In later years
Trump denied it, but he
had owned up to it at the
time, describing the Miller
calls as a “joke gone awry,”
according to the Post.
“I loved the commotion,”
he said. “And then they did
these polls where I went
through the roof and I wasn’t
even running, right? But it
gave me an idea.”
From there, Trump’s
latest speech played out like
a greatest hits reel from his
2016 campaign.
He reminisced about his
victory in the Republican
primaries. He vowed to
“build the wall” along
the Mexican border. He
denounced Hillary Clinton’s
characterization of some of
his supporters as belonging
in a “basket of deplorables.”
The crowd responded to
his Clinton criticism with
chants of “Lock her up!” just
as they did at Trump rallies
last year.
Further blurring the line
between candidate and pres-
ident, Trump departed the
stage to the Rolling Stones’
“You Can’t Always Get
What You Want,” the same
exit music he used during his
As for Trump’s criticism
of anonymous sources,
Gregg Leslie, legal defense
director for the Reporters
Committee for Freedom of
the Press, said such arrange-
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