The FBI declined White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ request to dispute news reports that President Donald Trump’s advisors had multiple contacts with known Russian intelligence agents during the presidential campaign, CNN reports.
In making that request, the White House crossed a line that restricts communication with the FBI during pending investigations.
This latest scandal stems from a stunning New York Times report that American intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls between Trump advisors and senior Russian intelligence officials. The Times’ story, which appeared as concerns mounted about Trump’s ties to Russia, did not identify specific sources of information.
CNN reported that Priebus reached out to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe the day after the Times and CNN reported on the contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials.
The news outlet said Priebus contacted McCabe a second time and also reached out to FBI Director James Comey, asking the director to tell reporters on background that he disputes the Times’ report. Comey rejected the request because it involved an ongoing investigation.
In its defense, the White House said it made the request after the FBI supposedly told Trump officials that the news reports were inaccurate.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said CNN mischaracterized the White House’s contact with the FBI. “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth,” Spicer said, according to CNN.