White House Reportedly Pressed FBI to Debunk Reports on Trump Aides' Ties to Russia

FBI director Comey refused request, which appears to violate procedures limiting communications between White House and FBI on ongoing investigations.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017.
JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

The White House recently requested the FBI to speak out against media reports on communications between senior aides to President Donald Trump and Russian state officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, CNN reported on Thursday

According to CNN, the FBI rejected the White House's request, according to multiple U.S. officials. 

According to a New York Times report of February 14, U.S. intelligence services intercepted communications between senior Trump aides and Russian intelligence officials around the same time Russia is believed to have hacked the Democratic Party network. 

CNN noted that contacts between campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual, but that the frequency of the contacts and the high level of officials on Trump team involved in the communications "raised a red flag" with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.

According to Thursday's report, White House chief-of-staff Reince Priebus discussed the report a day after it was published with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on the sidelines of another White House meeting. However, a White House official disputed that account and told CNN that it was McCabe who called Priebus to say that the media overstated the FBI's knowledge of the contacts between Trump aides and Russia. 

According to the official, Priebus then reached out to McCabe and to FBI director James Comey and asked them to have the FBI contact reporters to dispute the reports. Comey rejected the request, because the alleged communications between the aides and Russia are under investigation. 

CNN noted that communications between the White House and the FBI concerning pending investigations violate procedures, which limit such communications to cases important to the president's duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.