Although the president has repeatedly attempted to undercut the Russia investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his inquiry into whether or not any members of the Trump team, the president included, cooperated with Russian efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Mueller is also looking into whether the president has committed other crimes, like obstruction of justice.
Last Friday, as Mueller continues to make his way around the president’s inner circle, Mueller’s team interviewed former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. A new report from Vanity Fair outlines just how that interview may have gone, indicating that Priebus was ready and eager to answer any of the Special Counsel’s team questions.
According to an individual described as a Republican familiar with Priebus’s thinking said, the former White House official was “champing at the bit to testify.” He is reportedly dissatisfied with the way that he was treated by the president and his family, having repeatedly been relegated to a low-class position while he was still in the White House.
Priebus was abruptly fired from his position as chief of staff back in summer. He was just one in a long list of high profile individuals to make premature exits from the White House. He was replaced by then-Secretary of Homeland Security, the retired General John Kelly.
According to sources with knowledge of the matter speaking to Vanity Fair, the individual with the most to worry about from Priebus’ overeager testimony is the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who currently serves in an unpaid but prominent advisory role in Trump’s White House. Priebus, according to these individuals, has knowledge of the “proximity” of Kushner to the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey earlier this year.
Comey was, when he still had a job, helping lead the Russia investigation, encompassing not only whether or not the president’s team cooperated with Russia but also the Russian interference efforts in the first place. Comey’s firing took many by surprise because of its initial appearance as a move designed to obstruct justice, a view which the president himself buttressed in public comments.
One Trump adviser explained that Kushner being paranoid about ongoing investigations isn’t something new; he was reportedly “freaked out about Comey from day one.”
Kushner’s problems, as has been well documented, do not end with him having been in on the decision to fire Comey from the very beginning. He also, as Vanity Fair notes, helped set up meetings with global banking institutions to try and secure funds to keep the “crown jewel” of his family’s real estate empire from going under.
Even though he is no longer personally in control of his family’s businesses, having removed himself from that position upon his assumption of an Oval Office position, he could still be expected to look out for his family’s interests. Thus, there is the potential for conflicts of interest to affect his decision-making.
For now, we will have to wait and see if Priebus’ testimony produced any sort of viable information in either the collusion or the obstruction of justice cases.
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