Appearing to further confirm President Trump’s claims of surveillance, a former Obama official on MSNBC this week acknowledged that the former administration sought to gather intelligence on the president’s transition team and alleged ties to Russia.
“I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration,” Evelyn Farkas told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.
Farkas, who worked as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, even admitted there was an effort to conceal the information from the incoming Trump administration, wanting to preserve whatever data the Obama camp gathered on the president’s associates.
“Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left, so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy … that the Trump folks – if they found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.”
It’s unclear how careful Farkas was being with her words, because the comments seem to confirm the allegations that Trump and his surrogates have been leveling at the Obama administration: that they spied on incoming White House officials during the transition period.
“So I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more. We have very good intelligence on Russia,” Farkas added. “So then I had talked to some of my former colleagues and I knew that they were trying to also help get information to the Hill … that’s why you have the leaking.”
House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) has confirmed that Trump officials were captured by “incidental” surveillance between November and January by the Obama administration.
The issue, as Nunes frames it, is not illegal surveillance but the unmasking of Trump team officials — in what the reports so far suggest was an attempt by senior Obama officials to try and undermine the incoming administration.
“There was additional unmasking that was done in the documents I read the other day. I don’t know who asked for them to be unmasked, I just know there are more,” Nunes explained earlier this month.
Intel officials are supposed to follow “minimization” procedures when communications are captured incidentally, which raises more questions as to why the identities were reportedly passed between U.S. spy agencies.