Former Obama administration officials are taking issue with a New York Times report published Wednesday night which suggested that Obama aides had disseminated information about Trump campaign associates and Russian officials across the government in order to leave a “clear trail for the intelligence and government investigators” to follow and to ensure that no meddling occurred in other elections — in the U.S. or overseas.
That contention struck at least two officials from the Obama administration as overstated.
“To the extent there was an effort, it was organic on the part of [intelligence] professionals to document and retain,” one official told CBS News. “I was not aware of a strategic White House driven effort to do so.”
A second former Obama official said that the efforts to preserve the intelligence were simply part of the intelligence review.
The Times also reported that there were efforts to “pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress,” citing one set of documents on Russian meddling attempts in other elections abroad — the story says the papers were marked “secret” and were delivered to Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin before Inauguration Day.
But Senator Cardin had written to Victoria Nuland, who was the head of Russia policy at the State Department in December 2016, to request the material, and a spokesman for Cardin said in a statement that this came about as part of his oversight responsibilities, since he is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
“In December, Senator Cardin requested information from the State Department about Russia’s cyber attacks, malign influence, and disinformation campaigns worldwide, with a focus on activities in the European region,” according to Cardin spokesman Sean Bartlett. “What was sent over from the State Department in January was marked classified, so I am unable to characterize it, except to say that it was shared with both the Republican and Democratic Committee staff and was within the scope of what was requested.”
The information was deemed important — not only regarding U.S. policy but also because it was background for the senators during Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s hearing. His business ties to Russia were a big concern for the Foreign Relations Committee, which is chaired by Corker. Up to this point, Corker has not agreed to undertake an investigation into Russian interference in the election.