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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally connected Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporters with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in an attempt to discredit a Feb. 15 New York Times story alleging contact between President Trump's campaign aides with Russia, Axios reports.
While the Post has previously reported on the administration's attempts to counter the Times' reports, "the new details show how determined the West Wing was to rebut … that Trump campaign aides 'had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,'" Axios writes. Pompeo and Burr reportedly did not have details to deny the Times' story, and intelligence officials told Axios that it is unusual for the CIA director to talk one-on-one with a single journalist; typically, the director only talks to publishers or executive editors when a story could potentially hurt national security.
"The Senate Intelligence Committee has the expertise, the cleared staff, and the bipartisan determination to follow the evidence wherever it leads in this investigation into malicious Russian activities," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement. "For the public to have confidence in our findings, it is important that the Committee work in a completely bipartisan fashion and that we avoid any actions that might be perceived as compromising the integrity of our work. It is also important that the Committee ultimately issue a public report on our findings."