The New York Times has just reported that President Obama’s administration spent the last of its days making sure that the “damning” information they had on Trump’s connections to the Russian government and the records of Russian interference in the 2016 election were spread around enough to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for later investigators to follow – and to make sure that Trump and his cronies couldn’t destroy it.
White House staffers, worried that the vehemency of Trump’s denials and the staggering implications of the evidence meant that it would quickly be destroyed upon the transfer of power, went out of their way to make sure the evidence they had was spread far and wide:
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 level of classification to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies.
Part of their urgency, it appears, lay in their recognition that the White House had failed to take the threat of Russian interference in our elections and in elections across Europe seriously enough.
Evidence of electronic interference in networks belonging to the Democratic National Committee were first detected in April 2016, but it wasn’t until July that the perpetrators were determined to be Russian.
During the summer, as US intelligence services were investigating those hacks, communications intercepted by both the US and our allied nations discovered that Trump campaign members were in regular contact with Russian officials, but it wasn’t clear what they were talking about.
It wasn’t until September when Russian cyberattacks hit the voter registration systems of 25 states and breached four of them that the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into shape.
Even with that information, it wasn’t until after the election that “the administration began to grasp the scope of the suspected tampering and concluded that one goal of the campaign was to help tip the election in Mr. Trump’s favor.”
One of the most important revelations from this story is the fact that at least six officials have confirmed contacts between senior Russian intelligence officials and Trump campaign aides, which the White House has loudly denied.
One of the purposes of the publication of this story was to alert members of Congress to the existence of these documents and to let them know where to look.
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.
The FBI and both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 election and what role Trump and his camp played in the conspiracy.
Thanks to the unnamed officials of the Obama campaign, they now know where to start digging. The efforts that the Obama officials went to so this information was preserved means that the extent of the Russian scandal might be much wider than we could have imagined – hopefully large enough to drag the entire Republican Party down with the ship.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.