Obama administration officials reportedly spent the final days in the White House trying to spread information within government about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election and about possible collusion between Trump associates and Moscow.
Three unnamed American officials told the New York Times that those efforts, which they said were not directed by Barack Obama himself, were aimed at preserving the intelligence as well as ensuring such meddling would not happen again in US or European elections.
According to the officials, the push to spread the intelligence gathered by the Obama administration included asking specific questions at intelligence briefings so the answers would be archived and be easily available to interrogators. Reports were also kept at a relatively low level of classification to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government and, in some cases, European allies.
“The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election. There continues to be no there, there,” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said.
The revelation comes as it has emerged on Wednesday that then-senator Jeff Sessions spoke twice last year with Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador, encounters he did not disclose when asked during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general about possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the Washington Post reported citing justice department officials.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Mr Sessions, who had formally joined the Trump campaign in February, and Mr Kislyak that took place in September in the senator's office, at the height of what US intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the US presidential race, the Post reported.
On Wednesday it also surfaced that the house of representatives intelligence committee will investigate allegations of collusion between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
The committee said in a statement that its Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, and Democratic Representative Adam Schiff had agreed that their investigation would seek answers to questions including: "Did the Russian active measures include links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns or any other US Persons?"
White House counsel's office has instructed the president's aides to preserve materials that could be connected to the Russian interference and related issues, it was also revealed on Wednesday.
Three administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to disclose the counsel's office memo publicly, confirmed to Associated Press that White House staffers were instructed to comply with the instruction.
The memo, sent to White House staff on Tuesday, follows a request from Senate Democrats last week asking the White House - as well as law enforcement agencies - to keep all materials involving contacts that Mr Trump's administration, campaign and transition team - or anyone acting on their behalf - have had with Russian government officials or their associates. The Senate Intelligence Committee also made a similar request to the White House and agencies.
The president has been dogged by questions about his advisers' ties to Russia since the campaign. Federal investigators have been looking into possible contacts between Trump advisers and Russia, while congressional committees are investigating Russia's role in political hacking during the campaign.
A lot to unpack from POTUS' news conference. Most impt: Continued dodging direct questions about contact w/Russia.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) 16 February 2017
Congressional staffers have said they are not aware of any evidence that materials related to Russia are not being preserved. But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said last week: "There is real concern that some in the administration may try to cover up its ties to Russia by deleting emails, texts and other records that could shine a light on those connections. These records are likely to be the subject of executive branch as well as congressional investigations and must be preserved."
The intelligence community has assessed that Russia's hacking of Democratic groups and operatives was carried out to help Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump has denied having any knowledge that aides were in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, as reported by the Times.
Earlier this year, the FBI interviewed Michael Flynn, then Mr Trump's national security adviser, about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the US after the election.