The revelation from the Department of Education came the same day that a media watchdog group asked congressional oversight committees to start an investigation into what the administration may have known about the story before and after it was published and what it did to address the concerns raised in the article.

“The larger question we raise regards the role of public officials: Was this contrived, indeed fabricated story, part of an orchestrated power grab over U.S. universities by administration officials intent on using a major publication as a political weapon?” the Institute on Government and Media Integrity wrote in a letter to Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican and House Education and the Workforce Committee chairman.

The request could open the door for Congress to obtain access to documents that have also been sought by news reporters but so far have not been released.

White House entry logs show Ms. Renda visited the White House six times in 2014, the last time for a private group meeting of about 300 people with President Obama on Sept. 17, 2014.

Two days later, Ms. Erdely contacted the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) seeking information about the university’s record of handling sexual assaults. The OCR’s investigation of UVa. began in June 2011.