Nearly two weeks ago the New York Times ran this story: Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
(Note, more anonymous sources.)
Yesterday, CNN ran their own scoop: FBI refused White House request to knock down recent Trump-Russia stories.
The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.
But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate.
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
Late Thursday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer objected to CNN’s characterization of the White House request to the FBI.
“We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth,” Spicer said. The FBI declined to comment for this story.
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a US law enforcement official.
Why are we talking about it? Because the FBI has been leaking damaging stories like a sieve and Trump and everyone around him are pissed off. It is one thing for them to see an anonymously sourced report that insinuates improper contacts between current and former staff members on a Biblical scale and quite another when the people who are familiar with what is actually happening won’t step in to tone things down. The frustration is palpable. That is the genesis of Trump’s Tweetantrum about the FBI leaking.
Simply put, Priebus felt his boss was getting unfairly maligned by the Times and he asked the FBI to make a statement to that effect. The FBI, however, works under different rules. Generally, they don’t comment on ongoing investigations and Justice Department policy — which does not govern the actions of White House staff — is that only the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General can have contact with the White House in regards to FBI investigations. McCabe told Priebus as much. And there we are. The system worked. For everyone. Including CNN.