Former Obama official and Hillary Clinton campaign advisor Dr. Evelyn Farkas gave an interview to Vox published February 16, two weeks before her now notorious March 2 Morning Joe appearance, that contradicts her denials this week that she only knew from the media about alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Also, an interview with Brian Wiliams on MSNBC early on March 2 indicates Farkas may have been involved with an Obama administration effort to disseminate the intel gathered on the Trump team. Farkas made clear in an interview on Thursday that she coordinated with Obama officials to spread the Trump intel to Capitol Hill after the election–this despite her protestations that she was out of the government and only knew what was in the news.
Evelyn Farkas on MSNBC, March 30, screen image via Newsbusters.
Farkas, who is an NBC News National Security Analyst, denied having inside information in an appearance with MSNBC’s Kate Snow Thursday afternoon. Farkas also made it seem her efforts on Capitol Hill were of her own volition without contact with the Obama administration (that was contradicted by her interview with WGBH also on Thursday where she said she was telling Obama officials to share the Trump intel with Congress):
FARKAS: So there’s a total distortion of what I said and what I was talking about. I was talking about the fact that I was – I was outside of government, I had no access to intelligence on this whatsoever – but I was concerned because I knew how the Russians operate and I was reading these reports about them hacking into the elections and then giving information to Wikipedia [sic] and that Trump people, Trump team people, were going to Moscow. And you know, there was a lot of reporting on this. And so, I got worried that the process wasn’t being followed with regard to Capitol Hill, with regard to Congress, because it wasn’t clear to me that the White House was keeping them in the loop. And that was really important, especially since we were about to have a transition in the government.
Yet Farkas told Vox’s Ezra Klein last month that she was “first made aware” last summer via “winks and hints from inside” about intel suggesting Trump-Russia ties and that she was “agitated” because she knew what the “Clinton campaign and the world didn’t know.”
What’s your level of alarm after the resignation of Michael Flynn?
It’s lower than it’s been since the summer, when I was first made aware of all this stuff. I’m like, finally, everybody else sees it! Seriously.
The reason I was so upset last summer was that I was getting winks and hints from inside that there was something really wrong here. I was agitated because I knew the Clinton campaign and the world didn’t know. But I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I didn’t think Flynn would survive a year, but I thought it would be most of the year.
The fact that Flynn is gone is constructive from the perspective of US foreign policy. He was getting it wrong on combating terrorism and Russia. So I feel relieved that he will not be whispering his policy prescriptions in the president’s ear.
On the bigger issue, the intelligence community, the bureaucracy, patriotic Americans, and some members of Congress are making it impossible for the White House to sweep whatever they are trying to hide under the rug. And the White House is clearly trying to hide something, or the president would have said, on day one, that he would support the investigations that began under his predecessor.”
Farkas also spoke about her knowledge of the mindset of the intelligence community regarding Trump.
From the perspective of the intelligence community, the fundamental question is: Are you susceptible to blackmail from a foreign entity or individual? There’s the possibility of blackmail based on giving money or lending money or guaranteeing something. There could be some hanky-panky that opens the president up to blackmail.
It’s like you’re trying to do a security clearance on the president. The intelligence agencies want to make sure there’s no undue foreign influence on him.”
Farkas’ February 16 statement to Vox that “the intelligence community, the bureaucracy, patriotic Americans, and some members of Congress are making it impossible for the White House to sweep whatever they are trying to hide under the rug” points to her knowledge of a conspiracy to spread intel gathered about Trump and his campaign/transition staff throughout the government and leaks to the media.
It was on March 1 that the New York Times published a blockbuster report detailing efforts by the Obama administration doing precisely what Farkas described two weeks previously to Vox. The Times’ sources are described as “Former American officials” and “More than a half-dozen current and former officials” indicating the possibility Farkas was one of the Times’ sources.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
…Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.
At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.
It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed. Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama.
…More than a half-dozen current and former officials described various aspects of the effort to preserve and distribute the intelligence, and some said they were speaking to draw attention to the material and ensure proper investigation by Congress. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified information, nearly all of which remains secret, making an independent public assessment of the competing Obama and Trump administration claims impossible.”
…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.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress…
The Times also described what was happening behind the scenes last summer that Farkas was likely” getting winks and hints from inside” about.
The warning signs had been building throughout the summer, but were far from clear. As WikiLeaks was pushing out emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee through online publication, American intelligence began picking up conversations in which Russian officials were discussing contacts with Trump associates, and European allies were starting to pass along information about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries.
But what was going on in the meetings was unclear to the officials, and the intercepted communications did little to clarify matters — the Russians, it appeared, were arguing about how far to go in interfering in the presidential election…
In an appearance on the 11th Hour with Brian Williams the night the Times story broke (and hours before her appearance on Morning Joe) Farkas was more measured in how she describes what she knew last summer, but then reveals her knowledge of the mood inside the Obama administration as, “alarmed” that the incoming Trump administration would learn about the intel gathered on them and “block” it from the public and government oversight. Farkas says she “ran up to the Hill” knowing from her years working as a staffer there that those with proper clearances could request classified information from the Obama administration.
Yeah, I think there, there was a lot going on in the administration. First of all they had watched Hillary Clinton lose. And they, being the high officials–mainly in the White House–they were told, ‘you cannot do anything political’. And, but while they watched something, we don’t actually know all the details of what they were watching and they couldn’t talk about it. Hillary Clinton lost and then they knew that they had all had all this intelligence about contacts between the Trump advisors and high lev–high ranking Russians–some of them may be Russian officials some of them may just be close to the Kremlin. And they became worried. And frankly I became worried. I was outside of the government. I had advised Hillary Clinton on her campaign. And over the summer as the story broke I knew that there was more to this probably because we have very good intelligence on Russia so even the whiff gave me the sense they knew much more. But we cannot give away our sources and methods so it was clear to me that they told as much as they could. But they were holding some back. And you have to remember during the Obama administration there was also a grave fear across the board ever since the invasion of Crimea of Russian escalation. So that’s underlying all of this. The people who were then in the administration after the elections –getting to the squirreling away–became alarmed because they started to realize, well, if the Trump officials knew now that the story was out that we had intelligence within the government that maybe they would try to block an investigation or block this information coming out to the public. So I actually ran up to the Hill because I knew that’s another place where they have security clearances. They can request information I worked there for almost a decade They can request information from the, uh, executive branch and then they can hold that information until–and investigate actually–so that’s what was going on behind the scenes. This frantic desire. Now I don’t know about how they classified or declassified. It does stand to reason that you would try to, you know, come at the information at the lowest level of classification so that more people could see it. But frankly speaking the most sensitive information is in very closely held compartments.”
In an interview with WGBH-TV on Thursday, Farkas finally owned up to coordinating with the Obama administration to disseminate the Trump intel to Congress.
“…And so I was worried after the election once I saw that, okay, Trump was going into the White House he would now be the custodian of the classified information. However the other place where they can read classified information is on Capitol Hill. So all I was saying to the Obama people and to the people on the Hill was, ‘make sure you share the data, the facts, whatever facts you have on this.‘ And it wasn’t advocating anybody tapping, leaking, spying anything of that nature. I was saying Congress needs to be involved. Congress needs to be involved!”
(Brian Williams and WGBH interviews transcribed by Kristinn Taylor.)
Farkas gave an interview with the Daily Caller Thursday in which she denied knowing anything.
Farkas issued a statemnt Thursday to Jeffrey Lord with the American Spectator in which she contradicted her other statements.
“Unfortunately, a few days ago a strange video of unknown provenance popped up on the internet with a wild misinterpretation of comments I made on the air in March. The topic of the particular segment — the video was selectively cut to include only my comments out of context — was the Russia election hack/information operation and a NYT story that described Obama administration members trying to get intelligence information on the Russian hack to Congress. I explained, in my role as an analyst, that I knew there were concerns in Washington about what the Russians did and whether the American public would find out what happened. I stated that I was worried that Congress wasn’t being briefed — according to normal procedures, which I know well from my 8 years as a Professional Staff Member with the Senate Armed Services Committee. I shared my concerns with both sides of the aisle about the need to get all the information the Obama administration had with regard to the Russian hacking of our elections and any potential complicity by Americans. I 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. But I knew well from my time in government how the Russians operated and I could sense from media reports that the administration was concerned. I wanted to make sure that the standard procedure of White House briefing the Congress was taking place so that Congress knew everything the White House knew about what the Russians had done. At the end of the interview I did start a new thought ‘that’s why they leaked,’ but got cut off. 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.”
Farkas’ original March 2 statement on Morning Joe, set up by Mika Brezinski who stated, “you actually knew about this attempt to get and preserve information–and full transparency–were doing some work yourself. Tell us about it.” (Via Powerline, transcript corrected by KT)
Well, I was urging my former colleagues, and, 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. 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, um, that the Trump folks – if they found out HOW we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff 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