MSNBC's Joe Scarborough was shocked by reports that the White House chief of staff asked FBI officials to walk back claims that the Trump campaign team communicated regularly with Russian intelligence.
Reince Priebus privately asked FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to knock down inaccurate media reports about the Russia contacts, reported CNN, and the same White House official told the network that President Donald Trump's chief of staff also asked FBI Director James Comey to authorize investigators to dispute the stories.
Scarborough and his "Morning Joe" co-panelists agreed the request was improper -- but not surprising.
"Why would anybody at the White House be allowed to talk to the FBI, or vice versa, if they're in the middle of an investigation?" Scarborough said. "I can understand taking somebody aside and saying, 'Hey, listen, you're going to see something in the press,' but this directly relates to the White House. There has to be a Chinese wall here."
The White House initially claimed that McCabe had called Priebus and told him the New York Times had overstated what the FBI had found about the Trump team's communications with Russia, but later admitted that the chief of staff had reached out to the two top FBI officials.
Scarborough said he independently confirmed that Priebus had made the same request to both Comey and his top deputy.
"It was the same conversation that they had with McCabe, which was the FBI saying, 'Yes, it's bad information,' (and the White House saying), 'Well, can you get the information out there? Tell them,' to which Comey said, 'We're just not in the business of calling balls and strikes here,'" Scarborough said.
Scarborough admits he'd be angry if investigators were leaking misleading information that could lead to his impeachment and then refused to "clean up" those reports, but he said the White House should not be asking the FBI to do that.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued memos in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications with the FBI on pending investigations to the Attorney General's Office, the president's counsel or the president and vice president themselves.
"The bottom line, it's been a mess at the FBI and they need to keep their noses clean," Scarborough said.