An already chaotic media war against President Trump over his claim that the Obama administration was surveilling his campaign turned completely upside down Thursday with a report from the New York Times that the source of Rep. Devin Nunes’ purported evidence of the spying came from the White House.
It was the Times itself that weeks ago had reported the Trump campaign was under federal surveillance.
On Jan. 19, just as Trump was preparing for his inauguration the next day, the Times revealed, “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as a part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.”
The House Intelligence Committee, headed by Nunes, has been investigating the claims while Democrats and the media have insisted there is no evidence.
But on Thursday, the Times reported two White House officials “played a role in providing Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.”
However, unless the full reports are released, the claim that they were “incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance” remains unverified.
“Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence committee,” the report said.
The Times, citing only its unnamed sources, said the communications involved “consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.”
While Nunes’ committee was looking into the claims, which also relate to whether Russians interfered in the American presidential election, the report said, he got a call from “a source” and then met him, or them, on White House grounds.
“He has explained the choice of location by saying he needed access to a secure location where people with security clearances can legally view classified information,” the Times reported.
Then it pointed out such locations also are at the Capitol.
The following day, Nunes discussed the information about spying on Trump’s campaign with reporters, and President Trump.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is on the committee, criticized Nunes for talking about the details before giving the information to him, and others on the committee.
“The chaotic situation prompted the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is running its own investigation, to bluntly state on Wednesday that their work had nothing to do with the House inquiry,” the Times said.
Nunes said while the interceptions of the communications by the intel community that were then handed over to Obama may have been legal, the problem is that some individuals could be identified through the reports, and “some Trump associates were also identified by name.”
That’s normally not acceptable.
Just one day earlier, reports erupted that it was Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense under Obama, who on March 2 confirmed during an appearance on MSNBC that not only was the previous administration collecting intelligence on the Trump team, it was attempting to share it as far and wide as possible.
She explained it may have been for political purposes, after Obama’s own former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting CIA Director Michael Morell confirmed they have said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
The possibility was that in trying to spy on Russian actions, members of Trump’s transition team inadvertently were included in the spying.
Nunes comments earlier were, “Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration – details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value – (which) were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.
“I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked (revealed.)
“To be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or any investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.”
Farkas had explained she was “urging my former colleagues 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.”
The resulting storm now has media and Democrats demanding that Nunes recuse himself from the investigation, but at the same time, President Trump has asked the Intelligence Committee to investigate lucrative Russian ties to Hillary and former President Bill Clinton.
In that situation, a deal between a Russian state-owned energy company and a Canadian-owned mining company closely tied to the Clinton Foundation led to Russian control over one-fifth of U.S. uranium interests.
WND has reported tens of millions of dollars from uranium investors flowed into the Clinton Foundation before then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped decide whether to approve the sale of the Canadian company to the Russian government.
Before she approved the deal, Clinton’s husband, Bill, was paid $500,000 for giving a speech in Moscow.
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on radio with Hugh Hewitt on Thursday noted that it was amazing that Farkas admitted the spying.
“It certainly is an incredibly comment, although I don’t want to add too much into it right now until I have an opportunity to sort of dig into it and figure out the scope of such a statement … It’s just an incredible statement, you know, and how, what it means and what she meant by that, and whether that has anything to do with the issues in regard to surveillance of Trump transition team members…”
He said he hopes investigating committees take note of the admission.
In an opinion piece, Fox News’ Sean Hannity explained Farkas’ comments “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.”
“This is very, very important,” he continued, “Farkas is admitting surveillance of Trump and his associates took place. She is admitting intelligence leaking took place.
“This Farkas interview will not be the last shoe to drop as the story continues to unravel,” he said.
Farkas, on Thursday, tried to explain that she was concerned about a cover-up.
“We were having a transition of power from the Obama administration to the Trump administration,” she said. “If indeed there was an investigation ongoing, if indeed there was information the Obama administration had about Russian interference and possible American involvement, I wanted to make sure Congress knew about it.”
“I was afraid of a cover-up,” she claimed.
“They need to be sending her a subpoena, they need to be deposing her immediately,” he said.
Farkas responded with a social media claim that “I didn’t give anybody anything except advice re Russia info op v. USA.”
She said she just “wanted Congress 2 ask4facts.”