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WH Drafted Intelligence Officials, Congress to Rebuff Russia Reports

Image: WH Drafted Intelligence Officials, Congress to Rebuff Russia Reports

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By    |   Friday, 24 Feb 2017 08:42 PM

The Trump administration recruited top members of the intelligence community and Congress to dispute news reports about alleged contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates before his inauguration last month, according to news reports.

The officials then called news organizations last week to try to rebuff the reports, The Washington Post reports.

The newspaper said that it had received a call from an official at the White House's behest who spoke "on the condition of anonymity."

The alleged contacts are under investigation by the FBI — and CNN reported Thursday that FBI Director James Comey had spurned a request by the White House to dispute the reports.

The effort disclosed by the Post came after Comey denied the administration's request in discussions with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Two Republican congressional officials approached were Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and his House counterpart, Rep. Devin Nunes of California.

Through a spokesman, Nunes confirmed to the Post that he had spoken to at least one reporter "at the request of a White House communications aide."

Burr said in an interview that he "had conversations about" Russia-related news reports with Trump administration officials and had approached news organizations to dispute articles by The New York Times and CNN earlier this month that alleged "repeated" or "constant" contact between campaign members and Russian operatives.

"I've had those conversations," Burr told the Post, adding that he regarded the contacts as appropriate, provided that "I felt I had something to share that didn't breach my responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation."

The White House on Friday acknowledged the FBI interactions but did not disclose the latter effort, during which the officials would speak to news organizations "on the condition of anonymity," the Post reports.

In the contacts with news organizations, the officials dismissed the Russian contacts as "infrequent and inconsequential," according to the report.

But "the officials would not answer substantive questions about the issue, and their comments were not published by The Post and do not appear to have been reported elsewhere," the newspaper reports.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment, according to the Post.
Priebus initiated the Comey effort before slamming the Times and CNN reports — which appeared on Feb. 14 — in an interview that weekend on "Fox News Sunday."

"The New York Times put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, some treasonous type of accusations," he told host Chris Wallace.

"We have now all kinds of people looking into this.

"I can assure you — and I have been approved to say this — that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it's grossly overstated and it was wrong," Priebus said. "And there's nothing to it."

Administration officials told the Post for Friday's report that Comey and McCabe had cleared Priebus' remarks.

However, former CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Post that he remained concerned that the lines between intelligence and politics were increasingly blurring.

"I doubt that there was any enthusiasm from the intelligence leadership to get involved in this in the first place," Hayden said.

He noted, however, that Priebus' blunt denials in the Fox interview were consistent with the "precise language" favored by intelligence officials.

In addition, Hayden likened the situation to when Republicans slammed the Obama administration about its intelligence regarding the 2012 Libyan attacks.

"Think Benghazi here," he said. "This is what happens when the intel guys are leaned on for the narrative of the political speakers.

"The latter have different rules, words, purposes.

"Getting intel into that mix always ends unhappily, [and] it looks like we just did."

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The Trump administration recruited top members of the intelligence community and Congress to dispute news reports about alleged contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates before his inauguration last month, according to news reports.
white house, drafted, intelligence, congress, rebuff, reports
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2017-42-24
Friday, 24 Feb 2017 08:42 PM
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