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Priebus' improper contacts with the FBI come into focus

Everyone now agrees White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did something he clearly was not supposed to do.
Image: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017...

"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.