The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly refused a request by the White House to strike down media reports about communications between associates of Donald Trump and Russia.
Trump administration officials wanted the help of the bureau and other agencies to debunk the reports and asked them to say that there had been no communication and that the reports were wrong, according to CNN.
On 14 February, reports published by the New York Times and CNN suggested that people working for Trump in 2016 presidential campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence.
A White House official on Thursday, (23 February) told CNN that the request was made only after FBI told the White House that it did not believe in the accuracy of the media reports.
According to a US law enforcement official, a separate meeting took place between White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, just a day after the stories were published.
A White House official said that Priebus reached out to McCabe and FBI Director James Comey again to ask them to talk to reporters and deny the story. Comey rejected the request as the link between Trump associates and Russian intelligence is subject to investigation, CNN said citing its sources.
The White House's contact with the FBI over the pending investigations violates directives from the Justice Department issued in 2007 and 2009.
In May 2009, then attorney general Eric Holder issued a memo to protect the Department of Justice from political influence.
The memo reads: "Initial communications between the [Justice] Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President, or the Vice President from the side of the White House."
In an interview to Fox News last Sunday, Reince Priebus said: "I mean we've spent days talking about a story that says that our campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies. And I can tell you, I've talked to the top levels of the intelligence community. And they've assured me that the New York Times story was grossly overstated, and inaccurate and totally wrong."
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a briefing with Comey on 17 February. It is unclear what was said at the meeting, but reports suggest that members discussed new intelligence information on Russia.