FBI and national intelligence officials warned the White House last week that information requested by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes could put a top-secret intelligence source at risk, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The Post, citing multiple individuals familiar with the interaction and the role of the intelligence source, reported that top White House officials, with President Donald Trump's approval, opted to support a decision to withhold the information and were persuaded that handing over Department of Justice documents "could risk lives by potentially exposing the source." The newspaper reported that the person is a US citizen who has been a source of intelligence to both the CIA and the FBI.
According to the report, "information developed by the intelligence source" has been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, though it is not known whether Trump was aware of that fact.
Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as any potential links or coordination between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government. Trump has repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a "witch hunt" and insisted there was no collusion.
A clash between the Justice Department and House Republicans seeking information from the department has escalated in recent weeks. Nunes has recently suggested that lawmakers might move to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for withholding information tied to the Russia inquiry.
CNN reported earlier this week that the Justice Department has informed Nunes that providing information on "a specific individual" could pose grave implications for national security, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
"They are citing spurious national security concerns to evade congressional oversight while leaking information to The Washington Post ostensibly about classified meetings," Nunes said in a statement to the Post. "Congress has a right and a duty to get this information and we will succeed in getting this information, regardless of whatever fantastic stories the DOJ and FBI spin to the Post."
White House officials did not respond to requests for comment from the Post.
On Wednesday, White House legislative director Marc Short told CNN that "the Department of Justice and Chairman Nunes should be having more conversations about sharing more information."
The Post reported that FBI and intelligence officials informed White House chief of staff John Kelly last Wednesday that providing the requested information "could contradict years of policy about protecting intelligence sources," citing three individuals familiar with the matter.
Citing an individual with knowledge of the conversation, the newspaper reported that Kelly conferred with the President, who "agreed it was important to protect intelligence sources."