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By JOSH HAYES, Associated Press Washington — The White House on Friday dismissed as “fake news” news reports that senior administration officials and former aides were caught sharing a classified briefing on an intelligence program with Russia, saying the reporting was “complete fiction.”
The White National Committee and the National Security Council said in a statement that the briefing, which took place in June 2016, was “not a classified intelligence briefing but a full, unclassified briefing, that included frank and candid assessments of the U.S. response to the Russian cyberthreats.”
They said it was “extremely rare for the president to receive such a briefing,” but that the president “always and publicly holds the highest level of confidence in the National Intelligence Estimate.”
The administration statement also said the briefing was “part of the administration’s longstanding practice to discuss sensitive intelligence matters with the highest levels of government” and was not an indication of the president’s intent.
The briefing was not classified and the president did not know the identity of anyone in the room.
The Associated Press reported that the meeting occurred before President Donald Trump took office, and that it was recorded by a senior intelligence official, according to a report by The Associated News and the Associated Press news agency.
The White house did not respond to an AP request for comment.
It was the latest revelation in an unfolding investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 U.N. vote to elect Trump.
Trump has denied collusion with Russia.
A White House official said the president was “deeply disturbed” by the reporting.
“It was an extreme breach of protocol,” the official said.
“The president did receive the briefing.
It should not have been broadcast.”
The news of the briefing came on the same day the president and other top White House officials are set to attend a meeting with the heads of the country’s most influential intelligence agencies.
The U.K.-based weekly The Times on Friday reported that Trump and his advisers discussed Russia during the July meeting with intelligence chiefs, but did not discuss the hacking of Democratic political organizations during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The report did not identify any of the officials who attended.
The Times also reported that some senior officials had been caught in an illegal, unsecured session with Russian spies.
That revelation came amid growing pressure on the White House to release the classified briefing, after the Associated News earlier reported on the secret recording.
In response, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs would hold a hearing on the briefing Thursday to determine whether it meets national security requirements.
The panel is also investigating whether the White Department broke rules and failed to report the briefing to the public.
The House and Senate intelligence committees are also investigating the meeting.
The Trump administration has repeatedly accused the intelligence community of being too slow to warn the president about the hacking and said the Russia probe is “the real scandal” of his presidency.
Trump tweeted Friday that the Russia investigation is a “hoax” that is “designed to delegitimize our elections.”
The president also criticized the intelligence agencies for failing to warn him about Russia’s meddling.
He has repeatedly questioned the intelligence assessment that Russia hacked into Democratic organizations during last year’s presidential campaign and blamed former President Barack Obama for not doing enough to stop the cyberattacks.
Sanders said Friday that a White House review of the intelligence report will be made public as soon as possible.
“We have a very thorough, independent and transparent review underway that will be completed in the coming days,” she said.
Sanders added that the White house is working with the Senate Intelligence Committee to determine if any of its findings are classified.
The Senate Intelligence committee said Friday it has not yet received the classified report, which was released on July 8.
The classified report is an assessment of the threat from foreign governments, including Russian interference, and how the U, U. S. and other countries are responding.
The committee is investigating whether Trump associates and his campaign collude with Russian operatives to meddle in the 2016 election.
Trump and other Republicans have long sought to discredit the U