FBI Director James Comey wanted to go public with information on Russia's alleged attempts to influence the US presidential election months before the vote, but was stopped by Obama administration officials.
Comey floated the idea of writing an op-ed about the interference campaign during a meeting at the White House in June or July, two sources told Newsweek. "He had a draft of it or an outline. He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, 'I want to go forward, what do people think of this?'" an unnamed source with knowledge of the meeting said.
The meeting reportedly included then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the director of DHS and the national security adviser. According to Newsweek, which was acquired by IBTimes in 2013, Comey's op-ed did not get the support of other national security leaders or White House officials.
The source said officials believed the announcement should be presented as a coordinated front by multiple agencies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National intelligence went on to accuse the Russian government of meddling in the US election on 7 October.
A second source said the op-ed, which Comey would have likely tried to publish in The New York Times, would not have revealed whether the FBI was investigating Donald Trump's campaign staff or his acquaintances.
The intelligence community believes Kremlin-backed actors released emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) with the intention of hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign.
"Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency," the report said. "We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee on 20 March that the FBI has been investigating Russian interference in the election and any potential collusion between Trump's associates and Moscow since July.
The FBI director, who came under fire for making disclosures about the investigation into Clinton's emails days before the election, was held back from going public about the Russia investigation by the White House, a source maintained. "The White House shut it down," the source said. "They did their usual – nothing."
Obama officials told the New Yorker that the White House opted for a less forceful response, fearing the administration would appear partisan. The lack of response angered those in Clinton's camp.
"We understand the bind they were in," one of Clinton's senior advisers told the magazine. The adviser added that had Obama told the public: "The United States is under attack. The Russian government at the highest levels is trying to influence our most precious asset, our democracy, and I'm not going to let it happen.' A large majority of Americans would have sat up and taken notice."
The Trump administration has repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Trump took to Twitter to blast the House Intelligence Committee's investigation and call the Russia story a "hoax".
A spokesperson for the FBI told Newsweek that the agency would not be "adding to the director's comments regarding Russia at the March 20 hearing" when asked about the op-ed.