Following reports that White House Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to dispute a story saying aides to President Donald Trump were in contact with Russian officials before the election, senior administration officials insisted that FBI officials came to Priebus to say the reporting was inaccurate.
The officials told reporters that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe brought up to Priebus during a one-on-one meeting on Feb. 15 that a New York Times story on the subject was “bullshit,” according to a White House pool report.
CNN reported on Thursday that the FBI had refused a request from Priebus to publicly push back on the Times’ report about Trump aides being in communication with Russian officials. Both CNN and the Associated Press reported that discussion about the Times’ story originated with a conversation between McCabe and Priebus.
The senior administration officials said Friday that after learning about the FBI’s views on the Times report, Priebus asked McCabe, “What can we do about this?” McCabe told Priebus that he’d get back to him, prompting Preibus to let McCabe know he was getting “crushed” by the Times story, per the pool report.
The officials said McCabe later called Priebus and told him, “We’d love to help but we can’t get into the position of making statements on every story.” But when Priebus asked McCabe if he could cite senior intelligence officials who said the report was false, McCabe replied “yes,” according to the pool report.
FBI Director James Comey himself later called Priebus to reaffirm that the story was inaccurate, but the agency could not make a statement, the officials told reporters.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday also railed against CNN, which first reported that a White House official had asked the FBI to publicly counter the New York Times’ reporting, according to the pool report.