A senior congressional official with direct knowledge told NBC News that James Comey briefed Congress in recent days that he had requested more staff and money for the Russia investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Comey, who was fired as FBI director Tuesday, had asked Rosenstein for additional resources for the probe. According to the Times, four congressional sources, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said Comey asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources during a meeting with Rosenstein.
"I'm told that as soon as Rosenstein arrived, there was a request for additional resources for the investigation and that a few days afterwards, he was sacked," Durbin told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation."
The Department of Justice denies that Comey asked Rosenstein for more resources. Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told NBC News the report was "entirely false," and "there was absolutely no request" from Comey for more agents or resources for the investigation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters Wednesday she was not personally briefed by Comey on requests for additional funding for the investigation. However, she said, "I understand that there have been additional requests. That's all I can say."
White House officials dispute that President Trump's firing of Comey had anything to do with the Russia investigation. They say that Rosenstein decided, after starting his job two weeks ago, to review Comey's performance. Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation was the reason he was fired, they say.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday that Trump had been considering firing Comey "since the day he was elected."