Priebus Says No Known Trump-Related Contacts With Russian AgentsBy
White House chief of staff comments on Sunday news shows
Trump aides reportedly had ‘repeated contacts’ with Russians
Reince Priebus said Donald Trump and his advisers are not aware of any contacts between the president’s associates and Russian agents during the 2016 election campaign.
“We don’t know of any contacts with Russian agents,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, one of three appearances on Sunday political shows by the White House chief of staff.
The New York Times reported on Feb. 14 that Trump campaign aides and associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials during the campaign, citing four current and former U.S. officials the newspaper didn’t identify.
Trump said during a Feb. 16 press conference at the White House that he wasn’t aware of any contacts between his campaign aides and Russian intelligence officials.
Priebus told NBC that the New York Times report was “total baloney,” and in a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday” said it contained “some treasonous type of accusations.”
“The top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it,” Priebus said on Fox.
Priebus said he’s aware of a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee for the White House to preserve any communications regarding Russia, which was reported by the Associated Press. He indicated that the administration is prepared to cooperate with the committee and isn’t concerned about the results.
“That doesn’t mean that there’s anything there,” Priebus said. “As long as they do their job, and we cooperate with them, they’ll issue a report, and the report will say there’s nothing there.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that if there were any contacts with Russian agents, “I want to know about it” and “bring it to the committee.” But Nunes said as far as he knows, U.S. law enforcement doesn’t have information that such contact took place.
Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager for Trump, also said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he doesn’t know of any person working on the campaign “that ever had a contact with a Russian agent or a Russian affiliate or anybody that has to do with Russia.”
Pressed about whether it’s possible someone had contact with Russia without his knowledge or Trump’s, Lewandowski said there was no outreach to foreign countries: “Never ever during my time with him, did I ever hear him, instruct him, see him ever ask somebody to reach out to anyone from a foreign country, ever.”
FBI Director James Comey discussed Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. election campaign with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday. After the closed-door meetings, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said on Twitter, “I am now very confident Senate Intel Comm I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence.”
There have been bipartisan calls for investigations of Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election campaign and any connections between Trump and his aides and Russia. Those calls intensified after Michael Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser on Feb. 13 after misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about having discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the country’s ambassador in December.
‘Lot of Questions’
Priebus said on NBC that he learned that Flynn had talked about sanctions before Trump’s inauguration when acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House counsel “sometime after Jan. 27’’ about Flynn’s conversations, which had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence. Priebus said a legal review determined that Flynn didn’t break any laws.
“But then we started thinking about whether or not Michael Flynn was being straight with us,’’ Priebus said. “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.’’
Asked whether the FBI has interviewed any other officials now in the Trump White House over the last couple of months, Priebus said, “not that I know of.’’