Advertisement

Members of Congress call for investigation into Priebus’s contact with the FBI

“A reminder for Trump: Nixon also tried to stop an FBI investigation. He found out no president is above the law.”

In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File
In this Jan. 24, 2014 file photo, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

On Thursday night, multiple outlets broke news that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus communicated with top FBI officials and asked them to publicly contradict media reports of communications between Trump’s associates and Russians during the presidential campaign.

Citing the ongoing reports into the investigation, the FBI refused.

The White House issued its own denials, as well as a confusing back-and-forth timeline defending Priebus’ request — initially saying that the FBI had contacted Priebus first, before walking that back to confirm the original timeline.

But according to legal experts, Priebus’ contact with the FBI were deeply unethical and possibly illegal.

For one, the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and administration’s contacts with Russia is ongoing, and as White House Chief of Staff, Priebus’ contact with the FBI appears to be in violation of Department of Justice rules.

Advertisement

Federal law also prohibits any communication that “endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” If Priebus requested that the FBI publicly report that an ongoing investigation was closed, that could be a violation of this law.

“[I]t could well be attempted obstruction of justice, and it’s certainly so unethical that it would be a firing offense for a chief of staff in any White House that respects the rule of law,” Larry Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, told ThinkProgress.

Now, some lawmakers — thus far, only Democrats — are calling for an independent investigation into Priebus’ involvement, and reiterating calls for an independent investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia.

One of the allegations in the articles of impeachment brought against Nixon was that he had used the White House to interfere or endeavor to interfere with “the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees…”

Advertisement

Though all of the details of what Priebus asked of the FBI are unknown, the similarities are drawing notice of lawmakers.

Currently, however, all of the lawmakers calling for an independent investigation are Democrats, and Republicans control both Houses of Congress. They have been silent on the allegations of the White House attempting to interfere with an FBI investigation.

Advertisement

As it stands, if the FBI finds that there were illegalities in the Trump campaign’s conduct, those findings would be handed over to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who hasn’t recused himself.

Sessions is one of Trump’s top political advisers, and was heavily involved in his campaign.