By Jordan Fabian - 02-24-17 10:15 AM EST
President Trump's top spokesman on Friday dismissed a news report alleging the FBI rejected a request by the White House to publicly knock down reports about communications between Trump associates and the Russians.
"What you guys have done is indefensible and inaccurate," he told reporters.
Senior administration officials accused CNN, which broke the story, of mischaracterizing the White House's request to the FBI - though they did not dispute that a communication took place between the FBI and White House officials.
CNN reported that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reached out to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe asking them to talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories about communications between Trump associates and Russia, which ran in The New York Times and CNN.
Comey reportedly rejected the request because the alleged communications are the subject of an investigation.
The discussions between the FBI and the White House could run aground of longstanding rules restrictions of contact regarding pending investigations.
The administration officials, who spoke anonymously, said the discussions began with McCabe and Priebus chatting briefly after a meeting at the White House on Feb. 15.
McCabe told Priebus, "I want you to know story in [The New York Times] ... is BS," according to the official.
Priebus then asked McCabe, "What can we do about this?" But the FBI official later called Priebus back to say the FBI could not comment on the story.
"We'd love to help but we can't get into the position of making statements on every story," McCabe told Priebus, according to an official. Comey later reiterated that position to the chief of staff.
The top White House aide, who on Sunday decried news reporting based off anonymous sources, asked if he could cite McCabe and others as "senior intelligence officials." The FBI official said yes.
White House press secretary Spicer denied that the communication represented any kind of inappropriate pressure.
If Priebus had just walked away, "how insane would that be?" Spicer asked. "What sane person would not want to set the record straight?"
The Trump team's alleged ties to Russia have dogged his presidency during his first month in the White House, in which he has tried to push forward on issues like tax reform, immigration and trade.
The White House has also been warring with the media, and CNN in particular. The new fight is an escalation of that battle, in which Trump has repeatedly cast CNN as "fake news."