We haven’t seen much of Reince Priebus since he left his gig at the White House, which is kind of a shame because I always liked him. He showed back up for the Sunday show circuit today, though, sitting down for an interview on Meet the Press. As expected, it was all about the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation, his relationship with the intelligence community and all the rest. The big ticket item they hit was the renewed interest in the question of whether or not Trump actually tried to fire Bob Mueller or at least discussed the idea. Contrary to some other insider scoops on the subject, Reince didn’t see it that way.
The interview actually isn’t that long so I’ve embedded it here. For the impatient among you, you can skip through to just about the halfway mark to catch the relevant bits.
“Of all the things that we went through in the West Wing, I never felt that the president was going to fire the special counsel,” Priebus said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” during his first interview since his last day working at the White House last summer.
The New York Times recently reported that Priebus, along with then-White House strategist Steve Bannon, grew increasingly concerned back in June that Trump would fire Mueller, and “backed off” only when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.
“I would know the difference between a level-ten situation as reported in that story and what was reality, and to me that wasn’t reality,” Priebus said.
Toward the end, after a few more wide-ranging questions, Reince is asked how he views his days in the White House with Trump and if he ever felt like he was engaged in some sort of covert conspiracy with the Russians. His answer comes up a tad short, or so I thought. (Emphasis added)
As communications between Russians and associates of Trump receive increased scrutiny by Mueller and numerous Congressional committees conducting their own investigations, Priebus defended his overall tenure while serving at the White House.
“I never felt that I was involved in something nefarious,” he said, “the whole way through, from the beginning to the end.”
Reince has been away from the circus for more than half a year at this point and not doing any interviews, so perhaps he’s just off his game a bit. But is that really the best he could come up with? Saying you didn’t feel you were “involved in something nefarious” is rather weak tea.
“Mr. Smith, when your employer was asking you to bury all those dead animals behind his house, weren’t you suspicious that something was going on?”
“Well, I knew he worked in some sort of laboratory. I assumed it had something to do with science. I never thought it was anything nefarious.”
Leaving any quibbling over word choices aside, you can see why the White House would want Priebus to come out of media exile and do this interview right now. The real question is why Reince would want to agree to take the spot. I don’t think anyone sees him getting back into the mix at the Oval Office anytime soon, and after his departure, he clearly doesn’t have any reason to feel some sort of slavish loyalty to the President. The whole point here is that his testimony might be carrying a bit more weight than that of others from his old gang. What reason would he have to lie just to offer cover to Trump? None that I can see.
Or could it be – and to be clear, I’m just spitballing here – that Reince Priebus wants to break back into the mix of Washington action because he’s got some plans of his own? The RNC Chair position isn’t currently open, but he’s one heck of a fundraiser with a lot of contacts. He’s also nowhere near old enough to be put entirely out to pasture based on his age. (The guy is only 45.) What might he have up his sleeve?
Yet again, things that make you go, hmmm.