The Times report cited several US officials with direct knowledge of the call that the paper said occurred late last year.
Trump tapped Whitaker to lead the Justice Department in November after he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump regularly slammed for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
Trump soured on Whitaker as well, according to Times, which said it was “unclear” what Whitaker did after the call. The Times said there was no evidence Whitaker took steps to intervene in the investigation Trump asked about, although the report said he told Justice Department associates that the prosecutors needed “adult supervision.”
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month that “‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.’ Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony,” she said. When pressed directly by House Judiciary Committee members about any conversations with the President about the southern district of New York investigation Whitaker refused to answer.
Trump on Tuesday denied a question from a reporter about whether he asked Whitaker about a recusal matter in the case.
“No, I don’t know who gave you that,” Trump said.
Trump went on to praise Whitaker as “a very, very straight shooter” and said he had “a lot of respect” for him.
The President also praised Whitaker’s performance during the House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month, calling it “exceptional.”
“He should be given a lot of thanks from our nation,” Trump said.
CNN’s Jessica Schneider, Betsy Klein, Laura Jarrett and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.