New York Times responds to Comey's challenge of its story

The New York Times on Thursday defended a February report that said members of President Trump's campaign had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials, pushing back against former FBI Director James Comey's claim that the story was inaccurate.

Comey's remarks came during his highly anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, in which he told lawmakers that in private conversations, Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty and pressed him to drop his agency's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But when asked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) about the veracity of the Times article, Comey replied that "in the main, it was not true."

In an analysis of Comey's comments on Thursday evening, the Times argued that sources cited in the Feb. 14 article have vouched for the account put forth, though the newspaper's reporters were not able to contact them immediately after Comey's testimony.

The analysis raises the possibility that Comey could have been disputing the article's characterization of Russian intelligence officials.

"Some law enforcement officials took issue with the Times account in the days after it was published, saying that the intelligence was still murky, and that the Russians who were in contact with Mr. Trump's advisers did not meet the F.B.I.'s black-and-white standard of who can be considered an 'intelligence officer,'" the analysis reads.

Another possibility, according to the Times, is that Comey may have disputed the newspaper's description of the evidence as "phone records and intercepted calls."

Comey took a broad swing at news reports based on leaks of classified information on Thursday, saying that many of them have been "dead wrong." But he also noted that the FBI's policy is to refrain from commenting on such stories, leaving inaccuracies unclear or unspecified. 

"The challenge - and I'm not picking on reporters - about writing stories about classified information, is the people talking about it often don't really know what's going on, and those of us who actually know what's going on are not talking about it," Comey said. "We don't call the press and say, 'Hey, you got that thing wrong.' "

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