US officials have warned that Russia is attempting to help President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders ahead of November’s US election, US media report.
A top intelligence official said Russia favoured Mr Trump, in a closed-door briefing to lawmakers on 13 February.
Mr Trump sacked his acting intelligence chief, Joseph Maguire, a week later.
President Trump said the reports were “another misinformation campaign” by his Democratic opponents.
The New York Times reported that Mr Trump was particularly angry that Adam Schiff, the Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, was at the briefing.
The paper said President Trump and other US lawmakers have been informed of the attempted assistance, but it is not clear what form it has taken.
Responding to the report, Mr Sanders said he opposed Russia’s efforts to “undermine American democracy”. Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, Mr Sanders said:”Stay out of American elections.”
In the House intelligence briefing last week, Mr Trump’s supporters argued that the president had taken a hard stance with Russia, and that European ties and security had been strengthened as a result, the newspaper added.
Mr Schiff later tweeted that if Mr Trump was in any way “interfering” with the sharing of information between US intelligence agencies and Congress regarding foreign interference in the election process, the president was “jeopardising” attempts to stop it.
On Friday, the Kremlin denied the allegations. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters they were “paranoid announcements” that had “nothing to do with the truth”, Reuters reported.
Mr Maguire was a favourite to be nominated for the permanent Director of National Intelligence (DNI) post, the Washington Post said.
However, the paper said the president changed his mind when he found out about the briefing, and what he called the “disloyalty” of his staff.
The president announced this week that Mr Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist.
Two Trump administration officials told the New York Times that the replacement of Mr Maguire, so soon after the contentious briefing, was a coincidence.
Democrats criticised the president for appointing Mr Grenell, who has previously played down the extent of Russian interference in the last election, and has celebrated the rise of far-right politicians in Europe.
Ned Price, a former aide to Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, said the president had “dropped the charade that he has any use for intelligence”.
“He has just named the most political – and abrasive – US ambassador to what is supposed to be the least political – and undoubtedly delicate – role,” he tweeted.
On Friday, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate beaten by Mr Trump in 2016, tweeted a jab at her old foe.
On Friday, the president tweeted that “four great candidates” were being considered for the permanent DNI role.
He told reporters on Air Force One a day earlier that congressman Doug Collins – who was an outspoken defender of Mr Trump during the impeachment inquiry – was among the possible nominees.
The Georgia Republican has said, however, he does not want the posting.
“This is not a job that interests me, at this time it’s not one that I would accept because I’m running a Senate race down here in Georgia,” Mr Collins told the Fox Business Network.
What is the Trump-Russia controversy about?
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia used a strategy of cyber-attacks and fake news stories in an effort to skew the election against Mrs Clinton.
In 2017, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to lead a US justice department inquiry into whether Trump aides had colluded with Kremlin agents.
Mr Mueller submitted a 448-page report in 2019 that did not establish the president’s campaign had conspired with Russia during the election, but it did suggest Mr Trump had obstructed the inquiry.
Mr Trump called the inquiry a “political witch hunt” and Russian President Vladimir Putin denied collusion.