Congressional Democrats sharply criticized President Donald Trump Friday over a CNN report that the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.
CNN reported Thursday that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI’s top two officials, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Director James Comey, to say the media reports were wrong after McCabe told Priebus some of the coverage was inaccurate. Comey and McCabe rejected that request, multiple US officials briefed on the matter told CNN.
The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Priebus’ reported behavior “an outrageous breach of the FBI’s independence.”
“The Trump White House has been caught trying to pressure the FBI into undermining a vital national security investigation into the explosive ties between senior Trump officials and Russian intelligence agents, an action which is in violation of Department of Justice rules and which may also be illegal,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Political interference in the integrity of an FBI investigation into the conduct of White House officials is a grave abuse of power. The rule of law depends on the FBI’s complete independence, free from political pressure from the targets of its investigations,” she added.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the probe.