When the White House asked the FBI to refute publicly news reports that associates of President Trump engaged in possibly illegal contacts with Russian intelligence, Director James Comey refused. The interaction between the White House and the FBI again puts Comey squarely in the political crosshairs, Politico reports. Last fall, Comey disclosed the FBI’s renewed investigation of emails relating to Hillary Clinton days before the presidential election, a decision some Democrats blame for Clinton’s narrow loss to Trump. Now, Comey has remained silent while the White House alleges that one of his top deputies first flagged doubts about a New York Times story on the Russian contacts to Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus, who asked for help knocking the story down.
Priebus’ move could raise questions about the integrity of FBI investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The partisan sensitivity surrounding the issue of the Trump team’s connections with Russia makes it virtually impossible for Comey to do anything (or nothing) without his actions being viewed as somehow political. “He wants to be the honest broker. That’s what’s in his heart,” said a senior Justice Department official. “But he’s having a hard time doing that. He keeps getting accused of doing things wrong, especially when going the extra mile to try to do things right.” Trump himself attacked the FBI on Friday, tweeting that the agency was unable to find “leakers.”