Washington, DC—The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General needs to investigate apparent improper communications between the leadership of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus about the FBI’s pending criminal investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election and links between Russian officials and associates of President Trump, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
Under current DOJ directives, the only people who may discuss pending investigations between the DOJ and the White House under most circumstances are the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General and the President, Vice President, White House Counsel and Deputy Counsel. White House officials today confirmed news reports that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Priebus recently discussed the pending criminal investigation, and Priebus asked the FBI to dispute news reports about the investigation which reflected poorly upon the president.
“The DOJ directive is clear and exists to protect our system of justice from political meddling,”CREW Executive Director and former DOJ corruption prosecutor Noah Bookbinder said. “These communications threaten, in the words of the directive, the ‘evenhanded administration of justice,’a key tenet of our democracy.”
The communications raise the possibility that the FBI’s investigation, which involves President Trump’s campaign aides and associates, will be tainted by political pressure from the White House. As the DOJ’s policy states, “[t]he legal judgments of the Department of Justice must be impartial and insulated from political influence. It is imperative that the Department’s investigatory and prosecutorial powers be exercised free for partisan consideration.”
“The Inspector General must immediately commence an investigation into these communications and into whether more improper communications have occurred with the White House,”Bookbinder said. “The FBI is investigating whether a foreign country interfered with the very fabric of our democracy. That investigation must proceed untainted—especially by those who may be implicated in it.”