On Thursday, CNN reported that the FBI and other agencies had refused the White House’s request to tamp down on stories about repeated contact between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals, including intelligence operatives.
The White House has denied instigating any improper request of the FBI to refute reports.
However, the one member of Trump’s inner circle named in the article, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, spoke at length on two Sunday political talk shows about his contact with unnamed intelligence officials in the days following reports that Trump campaign associates had been in contact with Russian officials.
Feb. 19 — with Fox News’ Chris Wallace
PRIEBUS: I can assure you, and I’ve been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured that that story [from the New York Times] is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated, and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it. And so, if I can say that to the American people, then what does it say about the story?
PRIEBUS: They’ve told me— Absolutely. They have made it very clear that that story in the New York Times is complete garbage. And quite frankly, they used different words than that.
WALLACE: Who is it that said that?
PRIEBUS: I’m not going to tell you.
WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, Reince. You just complained about unnamed sources, you’re using an unnamed source.
PRIEBUS: Well, because I didn’t ask for approval to use their name, but I will tell you this. When I say ‘top level people,’ I mean top level people.
Feb. 19 – with NBC’s Chuck Todd
PRIEBUS: [W]e don’t know of any contacts with Russian agents. And that gets to that New York Times story, Chuck. 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 that New York Times story was grossly overstated, and inaccurate and totally wrong.
I know what the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate were told by the FBI, and I know what I was told. And what I will tell you is that story was total baloney. And in fact, Devin Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, went on the record after he was informed by the FBI as to that story. And what did he say? He said it was total garbage.
TODD: The Associated Press has a story this morning that the Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a letter to the White House counsel asking for a preservation of any communication, anything that could have any ties, either during, right now since you’ve taken office, during the transition of the campaign, to make sure there are no — all records are preserved regarding Russia. Are you aware of this letter? And have you already acted upon it?
PRIEBUS: Yeah, I’m aware of it. And I think they’re going to do their job. And they have to do that. Those are things that Richard Burr and that team have to do. And that doesn’t mean that there’s anything there. It just means they need to do some things that satisfy their committee, that they’ve looked into something. And then they can have meetings behind closed doors that they always do in the Intel Committee, and then they’ll issue a report.
And as long as they do their job, and we cooperate with them, they’ll issue a report, and the report will say there’s nothing there. I know what they were told by the FBI, because I’ve talked to the FBI. I know what they’re saying. I wouldn’t be on your show right now telling you that we’ve been assured that there’s nothing to The New York Times story if I actually wasn’t assured. And by the way, if I didn’t actually have clearance to make this comment. I’m not a sloppy guy.
(H/t Bradd Jaffy)