Trump's White House is blaming leaks on an Obama staffer who left in 2015

Evelyn Farkas advised officials to gather Russian hacking information long before Trump became president

By Matthew Rozsa

Published March 31, 2017 1:15PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In the aftermath of the embarrassing revelation that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California — who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leaked information supposedly proving the White House's unsubstantiated claim to have been spied upon by President Barack Obama that was provided by, um, the White House itself — Trump's defenders are trying to save face by pointing to an unrelated March 2nd interview with a former Obama administration official.

On that day Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia until 2015, told MSNBC that she had urged officials in both the Obama administration and Capitol Hill to gather information about Russian attempts to hack the election before Trump became president.

"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," Farkas argued at the time.

Because Farkas was no longer working for the White House during the 2016 election, this could only be construed as her giving advice rather than an admission of any kind of illicit spying. This is a point that Farkas herself made on Twitter on Wednesday.

This did not stop Fox News host Sean Hannity from writing on Thursday that "former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas pretty much admitted that there was an all-out effort to gather and leak as much 'intel' on Trump as possible ahead of the transition to Trump. Farkas served in the Obama administration from 2012 through 2015 as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia."

In a statement to The American Spectator on Thursday, Farkas reiterated that she was "out of government, I didn’t have any classified information, or any knowledge of ‘tapping’ or leaking or the NYT article before it came out," and that her only goal was to make sure that the Obama administration shared what it knew about potential Russian subversion with Congress before Trump became president. She also pointed out that, while she had started a new thought saying "'that's why they leaked'" near the end of her interview, "if I’d had time I would have explained that leaking is illegal and I would never condone it, but it seems that the people who were leaking to the New York Times might have also been concerned that the legislative branch was being left in the dark.”

When it comes to a viral video that has condemned Farkas, she explained that it was "a wild misinterpretation of comments I made on the air in March" and that it was "selectively cut to include only my comments out of context," as it had been part of a larger discussion about "a NYT story that described Obama administration members trying to get intelligence information on the Russian hack to Congress."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Evelyn Farkas Russia Sean Hannity Sean Spicer