U.S. congressional Democrats expressed outrage that the White House asked the FBI to refute news reports about contacts between Russian intelligence officials and associates of President Donald Trump.
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on the Justice Department on February 24 to investigate the legality of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus's request that top FBI officials push back against news stories alleging there were repeated contacts between Russian agents and Trump's campaign last year.
"Priebus has committed an outrageous breach of the FBI's independence," Pelosi said. "Priebus has not only damaged his reputation but tainted the impartiality of the FBI."
Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating alleged Russian interference in the election, called on FBI Director James Comey to testify before the committee.
Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, said on February 24 that it was Comey and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who approached the White House to say a New York Times article --alleging that Trump advisers had contacts with Russian intelligence officials -- was wrong.
Spicer said Priebus then asked the two FBI officials if they would condemn the story publicly, which they declined to do.
Spicer argued Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey's assistance in rebutting what the spokesman said were inaccurate reports.