A former top Obama administration official has acknowledged efforts by her colleagues to gather intelligence on Trump team ties to Russia before Donald Trump took office and to conceal the sources of that intelligence from the incoming administration.
Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense under Obama, made the disclosure March 2 while on the air with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.
“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,” Farkas, who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said.
“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.”
The comments come as lawmakers on Capitol Hill clash over House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' claim last week that surveillance operations incidentally collected Trump team communications during the transition. Critics have accused Nunes of carrying water for Trump and called on him to recuse himself from Russia matters, but Nunes and his congressional allies have pushed back.
Aside from questions over whether communications were improperly gathered during the transition and before, there is speculation over how widely such information was disseminated. Farkas described a rush to spread the material before Trump took office.
"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," she said. "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."