President Trump, after a brief hiatus, returned to throwing Twitter bombs Friday morning to accuse his own FBI of failing to crack down on leaks – on the heels of reports about a conversation his chief of staff had with the bureau about Russia-related allegations.
Reports surfaced overnight that Reince Priebus had asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that Trump’s campaign advisers frequently were in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election.
The White House pushed back, claiming in response that while Priebus did speak with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, McCabe initiated the contact to inform Priebus that The New York Times report about campaign contacts with Russia was incorrect.
Trump, who has been battling leaks in several federal agencies since his inauguration, on Friday blasted the bureau for apparently letting that conversation go public.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time.
They can’t even……find the leakers within the FBI itself.
Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” he wrote.
Priebus’ reported discussion with McCabe sparked outrage among some Democrats, who said that the chief of staff was violating policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.
“The White House is simply not permitted to pressure the FBI to make public statements about a pending investigation of the president and his advisers,” said Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
But Politico reported that, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Priebus had merely asked the FBI “to inform journalists of the same point that they were making to us.”
Fox News has learned that McCabe indeed had initiated the conversation, asking to speak with Priebus for a few minutes at the end of an intelligence meeting last week. During that conversation, McCabe informed the chief of staff that the Times story was wrong.
Priebus wanted to know what he could do, but apparently was told later by McCabe that the FBI couldn’t be calling balls and strikes on every news story. FBI Director James Comey later told Priebus he could go out and refute the story, which he did.
CNN first reported that Priebus had asked the FBI to weigh in on the matter.
The report marked the latest damaging leaks out of the Trump administration.
Trump, meanwhile, has been shadowed by questions about potential ties to Russia since winning the election. U.S. intelligence agencies earlier concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Last week, Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn because he misled Vice President Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI about his contacts, is said to have talked with the ambassador multiple times during the transition, including a discussion about U.S. sanctions policy.
Still, Trump and his advisers have denied having had contacts with Russian officials during the election. Last week, Trump said “nobody that I know of” spoke with Russian intelligence agents during the campaign.