WASHINGTON — President Trump criticized FBI "leakers" Friday as he and aides sought to push back on news reports that his chief of staff asked the bureau to "knock down" stories about investigations into possible contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.
"The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time." Trump tweeted.
The president said officials "can't even.find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW."
Trump's comments came after CNN reported that "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."
The request came from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who has publicly said that FBI officials told him the stories were overblown.
Possible contacts between Trump people and Russians are part of an investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, including the hackings of Democratic officials close to Hillary Clinton.
Trump critics raised the issue of pressuring law enforcement.
Evan McMullin, a former CIA official who mounted an independent presidential campaign against Trump last year, tweeted: "This seems like presidential confirmation that the White House asked the FBI to help cover Trump campaign ties to Russian officers."
In disputing the CNN story, White House officials said an FBI official approached Priebus during a meeting to deny a New York Times story about Trump associates and Russia. Priebus asked the FBI official whether the bureau would say that publicly; the FBI official said the bureau didn't want to get in a position in which it would have to comment on every story about a pending investigation.
"It was a discussion about a story in a newspaper," said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. "A story that was inaccurate."
Priebus did not demand anything of the FBI, he said.
When the FBI issue raised the issue of the Times story with Priebus, Spicer said, "Reince's natural response is, 'can you correct it? ... Can you help us correct it?' "