CNN says that multiple officials are telling them that the White House asked the FBI to discredit stories about Trump administration connections to Russia, and the FBI refused. The report broke Thursday evening.
"CNN is told that the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down reports," Jim Schiutto said, "including a report by CNN about communications during the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence."
Multiple U.S. officials tell CNN the White House sought the help not only of the bureau but other agencies investigating the Russian matter, to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, these officials tell CNN. You'll recall that CNN and the New York Times first reported on this just over a week ago. So far the White House has not commented on the record to CNN.
"Evan, this is not a typical request, how did this start?" Anderson Cooper asked.
"Well, Anderson," Evan Perez responded, "a U.S. law enforcement official says that this began with the FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting on the day that these stories were published."
A White House official says that McCabe actually told Priebus that the New York Times story vastly overstated what the FBI knows about these Russian contacts. But a law enforcement official says that McCave didn't discuss aspects of the case. We don't know exactly what McCabe told Priebus.
A White House official says that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories.
"The FBI refused," he concluded, "and I should add that the FBI has refused to comment on the story."
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 24, 2017
The White House says that it made the request only after the FBI indicated that the stories were incorrect.
This follows in the string of U.S. intelligence stories reported by CNN with anonymous sourcing that the White House has vehemently denied. The most contentious was a report that Russians had obtained personally damaging information on President Trump. This lead to the infamous "Buzzfeed dossier" being released, which the Trump administration used to discredit CNN's reporting, despite CNN distancing themselves from Buzzfeed's reporting.
This will likely serve to further the gulf between the media and Trump which has been exacerbated by his continued attacks, and the prevalence of poor reporting of "fake news" by the media. Some suspect that the administration is purposely planting false stories in the media in order to decry the reporting and discredit combative news outlets.
Trump has also attacked the intelligence community as undermining his presidency over partisan motivations.