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White House chief of staff urged FBI to dispute Trump-Russia report

February 24, 2017 - 07:02 am
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(WASHINGTON) — White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus made a personal appeal to a top FBI official to dispute reports that multiple senior members of President Trump's campaign had communicated with Russian agents during the 2016 election, a senior White House official confirmed to ABC News on Friday.

Priebus had reached out to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in an effort to knock down reports of talks between campaign officials and Russia following a New York Times report on the matter last week, the official said.

Priebus only made the request after the FBI had told the White House there were accuracy issues with the Times' report, the official said.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that U.S. intelligence found through intercepted calls and phone records that Trump campaign members and associates repeatedly had contact with Russian intelligence agents.

Priebus' intervention is drawing heavy scrutiny from Democrats who argue that the communications break with precedent that ensures the FBI remains independent from White House influence. A White House official would not comment on whether Priebus’ communication was appropriate.

The FBI has so far declined to comment on the story to ABC News.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., a ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, argued that Priebus' actions should "concern all Americans, regardless of party."

"This is deeply troubling because of the inappropriate attempt to influence the FBI and because it may reveal a broader effort by the Trump White House to cover up malfeasance during the campaign," Conyers Jr. said.

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