Senior Trump administration officials have confirmed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had a conversation with senior FBI officials about published news reports on alleged communications between officials from Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
The discussions between the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the subject of an ongoing FBI probe could violate longstanding Department of Justice ethics rules restricting such White House contact with the FBI on pending investigations.
But the senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reporters early Friday, strongly denied media reports (CNN and Associated Press) that the FBI refused a White House request to publicly repudiate a New York Times report that alleged communications between close Trump associates and Russian government officials during the 2016 campaign.
'What can we do about this'
CNN reported that Priebus reached out to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, asking them to debunk stories about alleged Trump associates' contacts with Russia.
Senior administration officials told reporters Friday that McCabe initiated the conversation with Priebus after a White House meeting, telling him there was nothing to the reports.
Officials said Priebus asked McCabe "what can we do about this" and that the White House was “getting crushed” on the story.
Comey reportedly called Priebus and told him the agency could not issue an FBI statement debunking the report,according to senior officials.
Pelosi calls for investigation
Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Friday calling for the Justice Department to investigate Priebus' contact with the FBI.
“The Trump White House has been caught trying to pressure the FBI into undermining a vital national security investigation into explosive ties between senior Trump officials and Russian intelligence agents, an action which is in violation of Department of Justice rules and may be illegal,” Pelosi's statement read.
Trump has been dogged by persistent questions about his potential ties to Russia since he won the 2016 presidential election.
Russia interference being probed
U.S. intelligence services have concluded Russia intervened in the U.S. election by hacking into Democratic National Committee emails and leaking them, as well as pushing fake reports aimed at hurting the reputation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
U.S. intelligence services and several congressional committees are investigating Russia's interference in the U.S election.
Last week, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned following reports he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his frequent contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period before Trump's inauguration.
Trump and his team members deny having had contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.Last week, Trump said “nobody that I now of” talked to Russian intelligence service officials.
Early Friday, the president took to Twitter to blast the FBI and demand that “leakers” be found.
"The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even ... find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW," he tweeted.
Trump on Friday also continued his sharp criticism of the media during remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Later in the day, prominent media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and Politico, were excluded from a briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.