White House officials allegedly sought to recruit congressional lawmakers and the US intelligence community to help throw cold water on stories about communications between Russia and people in President Donald Trump’s inner circle.
According to a Washington Post report published Friday evening, some of those lawmakers were asked by the White House to talk to reporters and refute stories from The New York Times and CNN that alleged frequent communication between Trump allies and the Kremlin before the election.
The Post’s Greg Miller and Adam Entous report that the calls were sent last week, after White House officials failed to get senior FBI officials on board with publicly denouncing the news reports.
Miller and Entous wrote that the White House reached out to other officials instead, to “participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.”
The Post confirmed that at least two senior lawmakers were approached about questioning the Times and CNN reports – Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
Burr and Nunes are on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which are investigating Russian interference in the US election.
Burr told The Post he “had conversations” with the White House about stories surrounding Russia and said he thought the discussions were appropriate as long as he believed his comments wouldn’t conflict with his “responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation.”
Nunes said he had already been discussing The New York Times and CNN stories with reporters before the White House reached out, and then talked to another reporter “at the request of the White House.”
The White House’s actions have prompted questions about possible overreach as the Trump administration attacks reporting on its ties to the Kremlin, a story that has only gained traction in the months following Trump’s election.
The Trump administration’s attempts to block coverage only intensified on Friday when several media outlets were kept out of a White House press briefing, prompting sharp rebukes from many corners of the country.
Trump on Friday night continued railing against news organizations, sending another tweet that echoed one he sent days ago, labeling the media “a great danger to our country.”