The FBI rejected a recent request by the White House to dispute media reports that Trump campaign officials had regular contacts with Russian intelligence officials before the election, CNN reported.

The revelation comes days after White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said during a weekend television interview that senior intelligence officials assured him that there were not significant contacts between Trump advisers and Russian agents.

Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that a story in The New York Times about alleged connections “was total baloney.”


But CNN reported Thursday, citing “multiple U.S. officials briefed on the matter,” that the FBI declined to publicly corroborate Priebus, despite a rare request from the White House to do so. The New York Times and CNN reported last week that Trump campaign aides and associates were in touch with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign.

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that it “exacerbates the air of suspicion” around the administration. 

The report of White House communications with the FBI during a pending investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election could raise questions about whether the contacts violated restrictions established to insulate such probes from political influence.

Former President Nixon in 1972 discussed with aides using the CIA to push the FBI away from investigating the Watergate burglary that ultimately led to his resignation. 

Senate Democrats have called on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE, a stalwart Trump backer during the 2016 campaign, to recuse himself from the probe to ensure that it’s conducted impartially. 

CNN reported that a law enforcement official and a White House official offered conflicting stories of how the communication between the White House and the FBI over the news reports began. 

A law enforcement source told the media outlet that the discussions began between FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Priebus during a meeting on other topics a day after the Times and CNN published their reports.

A White House official, however, said that McCabe called Priebus to assure him the Times piece overstated the contacts between Trump advisers and Russian officials.

The White House official said that Priebus later asked McCabe and FBI Director James Comey to let the bureau talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. 

A law enforcement source wouldn't tell CNN what McCabe told Priebus but said he didn't discuss aspects of the case.

The Senate Intelligence Committee sent letters to agencies and officials asking them to preserve all records related to Russian attempts to influence the presidential contest — a request covering any contacts between campaign, transition and administration officials and Russian sources.