In a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that FBI officials had told him as early as February of 2017 that a New York Times story about contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians was “total BS.”
That report, which was formally debunked under oath by former FBI Director James Comey last summer, had claimed that “(p)hone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”
During the appearance, which happened in the wake of the FBI memo’s release last Friday, Priebus harkened back to the publication of the Times report and the president’s frustration at the Russia investigation.
Asked about whether he felt “misled” by the administration about contacts with Russians after it came out Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner had met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign, Priebus said that he hadn’t.
“I never felt that I was involved in something nefarious. The whole way through from the beginning to the end,” Priebus said.
“So you can understand the frustration of the president when he’s told he’s not under investigation. I think you know the story of Andrew McCabe that walked into my office, shut my door and basically told me that The New York Times’ story that was in the paper that first came out in February that said there are constant contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians with the door closed — looked at me and said, ‘I want you to know that this story right here is total BS. It’s overstated and it’s not true,'” Priebus revealed.
“This is the deputy director of the FBI. I didn’t know who he was,” he added. “It’s the middle of February.
“And so everyone’s in this world where we’re being told one thing and sort of operating in this other world of constant obsession by the media.”
The news that the report was false is nothing new. FBI Director James Comey had officially disavowed it during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last June.
“In the main, it was not true,” Comey told the committee.
“The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing stories about classified information is the people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on, and those of us that actually know what’s going on are not talking about it.
“And we don’t call the press to say, ‘hey, you got this thing wrong about this sensitive topic,’” he added.
“We just have to leave it there … nonsense. But I can’t go on explaining why it’s nonsense.”
As for whether he thought the president was preparing to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, Priebus responded, “not at all.”
“I think it’s news. I think it’s a 24/7 obsession with this issue,” Priebus said.
“Listen, it’s a legitimate issue that the president and all of his supporters, at least the ones that go on television, reiterate in saying they want to cooperate with the special counsel. They’re not going to get in the way. And I’ve not heard anything to the contrary of that mantra.”
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