More and more reports are coming out that show the Obama administration had surveilled the Trump campaign, the White House said Friday.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer highlighted two during the White House press briefing.
One was an interview on March 2, in which former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas described to MSNBC how she urged former colleagues in government to save and spread as much information on Russia as they could before Trump came into office.
Farkas said, according to an exact transcript of the interview:
I was urging my former colleagues and — and frankly speaking, 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,’ because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior 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 staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence, 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. 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. People are worried.
Spicer said that interview “raised serious concerns on whether or not there was an organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes.”
Separately, Spicer pointed to an NBC News report on Friday that appeared to corroborate Farkas’s comments.
It said Obama administration officials were so concerned about what would happen to key classified documents related to a probe into Russian interference in the elections once Trump took office that they created a list of document serial numbers to give to senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
A former Obama official told NBC News that the list was created in early January and that he “hand-carried it” to committee members. He said the purpose was to make it “harder to bury” the information, to “share it with those on the Hill who could lawfully see the documents,” and to make sure it could reside in an intelligence committee safe, “not just at Langley” — the CIA’s headquarters.
“Dr. Farkas’s admissions alone are devastating,” Spicer said.
Critics of the administration have pointed out on social media that Farkas left the administration in September 2015, but the concern is not whether she herself tried to save and spread intelligence, but that she was urging some of her former colleagues still in the administration to do so, and knew of some who “were trying to also help get information to the Hill.”
Farkas has also been described as a Hillary Clinton campaign adviser, including in a March 2017 New Yorker report.
During the briefing Spicer also suggested that administration officials may have more evidence to back up Farkas’s account—as well as Trump’s assertion that his campaign was being spied on by the Obama administration—that they intended to share with congressional leaders.
Spicer said the White House had invited House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and ranking member Adam Schiff (D-WA) to the White House on Friday. Schiff was later seen entering the White House.
“There is a — there is a concern that people misused, mishandled, misdirected classified information, leaked it out, spread it out, violated civil liberties. And the potential that that should — that that happened should concern every single American,” Spicer said.
“Day by day, more and more, we are seeing that the substance of what we’ve been talking about continues to move exactly in the direction the president spoke about in terms of surveillance that occurred. And that should be very troubling,” he said.