Three members of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle agreed with the opposition that he “had to go”, but then backtracked, US officials have said.
It comes after the opposition leader Juan Guaidó called on the military to help him end Mr Maduro’s rule.
Protesters took to the streets in the capital Caracas in support on Tuesday.
But military leaders appeared to be standing behind Mr Maduro, accusing Mr Guaidó of an attempted coup.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton offered no evidence that Mr Maduro’s loyalists were preparing to abandon him. The assertions were later repeated by Elliott Abrams, the US envoy for Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino appeared on television surrounded by soldiers, asserting their support for Mr Maduro as protesters demanded he step down.
However, according to the Mr Bolton, Mr Padrino was one of the men involved in three months of negotiations with the opposition.
He also named Supreme Court chief judge Maikel Moreno and presidential guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala.
Mr Bolton said they had committed to “to achieve the peaceful transition of power from the Maduro clique” to Mr Guaidó, who the US, UK and a number of the other countries recognise as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
“All agreed that Maduro had to go,” Mr Bolton told reporters in Washington.