With just days left under former President Obama’s administration, White House officials reportedly raced to save and disperse classified information about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald Trump and Russians.
President Trump has contended that the Obama administration worked to discredit his presidency and a New York Times report on Wednesday appeared to back the claims.
Former Obama White House officials were worried that the information they had procured on alleged Russian meddling in the election would be destroyed or compromised with the incoming Trump administration. They also aimed to “leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators,” according to the Times.
In their final days, Obama aides spread intelligence on Russian election hacking across the government https://t.co/miNzgEEBmP
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 2, 2017
The wide-ranging effort by the officials was not directed by Obama himself, former senior administration officials told the publication.
According to the Times:
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
The intelligence-sharing effort involved the White House, intelligence agencies and even the State Department, which sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, just days before Trump was sworn in.
The administration also sought to limit the number of incoming Trump officials who were allowed to view the information.
“Officials tightened the already small number of people who could access that information. They knew the information could not be kept from the new president or his top advisers, but wanted to narrow the number of people who might see the information,” the Times reported.
Trump stated earlier this week that he believed the Obama administration was behind leaks that were intended to undermine him.
Alleged Russian connections to Trump officials continue to curiously emerge as Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire for conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year. The meetings fell under the former Alabama senator’s duties as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee, his spokeswoman said.
Information on meetings with Russians by other Trump officials also led to the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn after his contact with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. after the election.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer responded to the Times story.
“The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election,” he said.
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