White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017...
JOSHUA ROBERTS

Priebus’ improper contacts with the FBI come into focus

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/23/17, 9:24 PM ET

Trump indifference to responsibility reckless, dangerous

Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden, talks with Rachel Maddow about the uncomfortable mix of incompetence and malice at play within the Donald Trump administration.
Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden, talks with Rachel Maddow about the uncomfortable mix of incompetence and malice at play within the Donald Trump administration.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a top Donald Trump ally, did his best yesterday to defend the White House urging FBI officials to downplay the Russia scandal. The Republican governor’s defense isn’t that the White House is innocent, but rather, that Team Trump doesn’t know what it’s doing.
“I can guarantee this, I don’t think [White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus] will ever have that kind of conversation with the FBI, with FBI personnel, again,” he said.

“Remember, these are all people who have never been in government before,” Christie said. “And so they’re going to need to learn these things.”
Factually, Christie’s point has merit – we have an amateur president who’s surrounded himself with people who have no governing experience – but it’s still not much of a defense. By his reasoning, it didn’t occur to the president’s chief of staff it might be problematic for the White House to intervene in a pending federal investigation. It’s one of those things the person running the White House needs to know, not “learn.”

Of course, Christie’s defense of Priebus’ outreach to the FBI acknowledges the underlying detail that matters: Priebus reached out to the FBI. The allegation that shook the political world on Thursday night and Friday morning, we now know, is true.

The Guardian, for example, noted that as part of Team Trump’s pushback against the reporting, the White House acknowledged one of the most controversial aspects of the story.
Priebus’ conversation] appears to violate justice department rules to ensure the integrity of investigations. […]

“The White House appears to have violated accepted protocols and procedures,” said former FBI special agent Ali Soufan.
A separate report in The Atlantic added, “The White House’s admission that it asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to publicly dispute stories in the New York Times describing contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials raises serious ethical questions, according to former Justice Department officials.”

Look, this isn’t complicated. The White House chief of staff abused his office and got caught. No one’s even denying the underlying claim anymore. The defense – that Priebus didn’t know what he was doing – is the sort of thing that generally fails to protect someone in his position.

If everyone, including West Wing officials, now agrees that Priebus did what he wasn’t supposed to do, we need to know what the administration intends to do about it.

Chris Christie, FBI, Reince Priebus and White House

Priebus' improper contacts with the FBI come into focus

Updated