March 02, 2017
Officials in the Obama administration reportedly spent Barack Obama’s final few days in office spreading their message internally that President Trump’s associates had maintained inappropriate ties to Russian officials during the campaign, an allegation that neither the Obama administration nor the Trump administration has publicly substantiated.
Obama administration officials also sought to preserve evidence of what they characterized as Russia’s attempts to influence the election by hacking into Democrats’ email accounts, according to a New York Times report issued late Wednesday.
The Times cited three former government officials in its assertion that British and Dutch intelligence officials had given the U.S. government evidence of what they said was a series of meetings between Russian officials and Trump associates.
The Trump White House has denied that any aide close to the president ever had ties to the Kremlin during the campaign or transition. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has said he is not aware of any law enforcement investigation into such ties.
Obama officials were reportedly motivated to disseminate the allegations in order to keep other nations from interfering in future U.S. elections, as well as by their fear that the incoming Trump administration would squelch any lingering inquiries.
The Democratic officials sought to keep documents related to the Russian allegations at the lowest possible level of classification so more employees could access the documents in the future, the report said. Obama’s team also sent reams of documents to members of Congress in an effort to further their investigations into the alleged Trump-Russia connections. The Times cited “more than a half-dozen current and former officials” as having knowledge of the attempts to spread Russian-related intelligence before Trump took office.
Trump has suggested the Obama administration’s focus on Russian hacking was merely an attempt to delegitimize his electoral victory.
Obama tried to calm angry Democrats after the election by arguing that he had withheld details about why the Russians had hacked Democrat inboxes in order to avoid accusations of bias toward Hillary Clinton. The Obama administration did identify Russia as the likely culprit prior to Nov. 8, but government officials did not publicly express their belief that the Russians hacked Democrats for the specific purpose of helping Trump until after Clinton’s loss.
Obama ordered the intelligence community to publish a report outlining its Russian hacking-related conclusions before Trump’s inauguration. That report made clear that intelligence officials believed Russians published Democrat emails because they wanted Clinton to lose and Trump to become president, but it did not provide evidence as to why intelligence agents had reached that conclusion.
Spicer said in a statement that Obama political appointees tried to “create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat” at the hands of Trump.
The House and Senate intelligence committees are presently investigating the allegations of Russian interference in the election. Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said congressional investigators have uncovered no evidence that Trump’s associates had inappropriate contacts with Russian officials.