White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did his best Sunday morning to end the controversy swirling around President Donald Trump by repeatedly denying the allegations that his campaign had contact with Russian intelligence agents during the election.
“We don’t know of any contacts with Russian agents,” Priebus said to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.
Priebus cited a New York Times article published on February 14 that claimed the Trump campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. In the article, the Times said American intelligence and law enforcement agencies intercepted communications between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian intelligence around the same time the Russians were caught hacking the Democratic National Committee.
Reince called the New York Times story “total baloney.”
Priebus was the latest Trump official to be trotted out onto the Sunday morning talk shows in order to beat back a slew of negative press following another chaotic week for the White House. Reince started his Meet the Press interview with questions about General Michael Flynn, who resigned his post following revelations that he had lied about talking to the Russian ambassador about lifting sanctions.
Todd started off the segment by replaying a clip from a January 15 Meet the Press appearance by Reince Priebus, where the incoming chief of staff flatly denied that Flynn had discussed lifting sanctions put in place by President Barack Obama in response to Russian involvement in hacking the DNC.
“I have talked to General Flynn. None of that came up. The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation,” Reince said on January 15.
“There was no challenge of American policy currently by Mr. Flynn with the Russian ambassador,” Todd asked.
“None,” Priebus responded as he shook his head.
Todd asked Reince about the clip and wondered when he thought that General Flynn had misled him. Priebus responded by saying that he first learned about Flynn’s discussion about lifting sanctions with the Russian ambassador “sometime after January 27,” which would be after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates notified the Trump administration of their concerns about the general.
Priebus went on to say that the White House legal staff looked into the allegations and determined that Flynn did nothing illegal.
“But then we started thinking about whether or not Flynn was being straight with us. And that’s when we started asking a lot of questions and sort of deposing Michael Flynn and figuring out what he knew or what he didn’t know,” Reince told Todd. “He maintained the fact that he never talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions. But still, something wasn’t adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn’t believe that it was illegal.”
It was later determined by the Trump administration that Flynn should resign over their diminished trust in him.
According to the Daily News, Priebus continued with the same line on the CBS Sunday morning talk show, Face the Nation, hosted by John Dickerson, going so far as to say that Flynn did nothing wrong in discussing sanctions with Russia.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a conversation about sanctions,” Reince Priebus said. “And there’s nothing wrong about having a conversation about the fact that the Obama administration put further sanctions in place and expelled some folks out of the United States.”
Over on Fox News Sunday, hosted by Chris Wallace, Priebus went even further to dismiss the charges that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian intelligence.
“I can assure you, the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that [the allegation] is not only grossly overstated, but also wrong,” Priebus told Wallace. “They have made it very clear that the story is complete garbage.”
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images News]