Mukasey: White House did not violate rule limiting contact with DOJ

(CNN)A former Bush administration attorney general defended the Trump administration Monday as it faces criticism for asking the FBI to knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.

During his tenure, Michael Mukasey limited communications between White House officials and the Department of Justice for pending criminal investigations to the attorney general, the White House counsel and their deputies.
But in an interview with Erin Burnett on CNN’s “Outfront,” Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did nothing wrong when he asked both FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to try to dispute the stories.
CNN reported last week that the FBI rejected the request, and a White House official said the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate. Press secretary Sean Spicer objected to CNN’s characterization of the request, saying Thursday, “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.”
    Mukasey, however, said the exchange between Priebus and McCabe was “perfectly natural.”
    “When the deputy director of the FBI is at a meeting at the White House, which happens all the time, and inadvertently says, ‘By the way, the report in The New York Times today was BS,’ and is then asked by Reince Priebus, ‘Would you please repeat that in public?’ That’s an entirely natural reaction,” he said.
    “It’s a question of tamping down publicity about something that may or may not be happening,” Mukasey cautioned. “It is not attempting to interfere with a pending case.”
    The former attorney general said the DOJ rule “was put in place to prevent the White House from calling up with regard to cases that were pending, criminal investigations that were pending, and, saying, ‘What’s going on with this case? Why don’t you bring it sooner? Why don’t you not bring it?’ and so on. That was the point of that, of putting that in place.”
    “I haven’t heard anybody identify a crime that has been committed,” Mukasey added.
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also facing calls to recuse himself from a possible investigation, including from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
    But Mukasey said he sees no need for that, asking “special prosecutor of what?”
    “Where is the crime? We haven’t even named a crime let alone suggested that charges are going to be brought,” he said.

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