Tuesday, 7 March 2017
CNN Politics, 23 February 2017:
Washington (CNN)The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.
The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts.
But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.
The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.
Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation. [my highlighting]
The Washington Post, 24 February 2016:
The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House.
Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.
The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.
The White House on Friday acknowledged those interactions with the FBI but did not disclose that it then turned to other officials who agreed to do what the FBI would not — participate in White House-arranged calls with news organizations, including The Washington Post.
Two of those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity — a practice President Trump has condemned.
The officials broadly dismissed Trump associates’ contacts with Russia as infrequent and inconsequential. 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.
Read the full article here.
Vox, 24 February 2017:
President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, kept major media outlets, including the New York Times and CNN, out of the daily press briefing Friday, canceling it in favor of an off-camera media gaggle for handpicked media outlets and escalating the Trump administration’s fight with the press.
The White House picked which journalists could participate in the press briefing Friday. Reporters for CNN, the New York Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, and the majority of the foreign press were not among them.
The press pool, including NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News, were allowed in, as well as several smaller conservative media outlets, including the Washington Times, the One America News Network, and Breitbart, which was formerly run by White House senior strategist Steve Bannon. Time and the Associated Press boycotted the gaggle, according to reporting from CNN.
The White House Correspondents’ Association board responded to the incident, noting that they were “strongly against” how the White House conducted the media gaggle and that they would discuss the matter further with the president’s press team.
While Trump’s presidential campaign was known for banning media outlets from rallies and campaign events, this is one of the first times the media has been explicitly barred from a White House press event during Trump’s presidency.