U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while meeting with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Team Obama took steps to protect intel on Team Trump’s Russia ties

Updated
The fact that Vladimir Putin’s Russian government intervened in the American presidential election, in part to help put Donald Trump in power, is no longer in doubt. We don’t know, however, whether Team Trump was communicating with Russian officials during the illegal espionage operation.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/1/17, 9:04 PM ET

NYT: Obama administration tried to preserve Trump Russia intel

Matthew Rosenberg, national security reporter for The New York Times, talks with Brian Williams about new reporting that members of the Obama administration tried to spread intelligence about Trump Russia ties around the government to leave a trail for…
Matthew Rosenberg, national security reporter for The New York Times, talks with Brian Williams about new reporting that members of the Obama administration tried to spread intelligence about Trump Russia ties around the government to leave a trail for…
Leading members of Team Trump, including the president and vice president, have insisted there were zero communications at the time, despite evidence to the contrary, and the New York Times reports that officials in President Obama’s White House took steps to protect important information about the connections.
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.

American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials – and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin – and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates.
This is actually two parallel revelations packaged together. First, there’s apparently additional evidence, including information from U.S. allies abroad, that point to communications between Putin’s government and Trump associates. The nature of those talks is unclear, but if they occurred, the denials from the president, the vice president, and their aides weren’t true.

Second, there’s staffers in Obama’s White House, who believed it was important to preserve evidence before the intelligence “could be covered up or destroyed” by Trump and his administration.

The Times’ reporting added that there was a “suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia” during Russia’s espionage operation.

Politico, meanwhile, reported this morning, “An Obama White House national security official said the administration was gravely concerned in its final days about increasingly apparent ties between Trump associates and Russians, and about what appeared to be promises made by more than one individual to representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin about policy changes that would occur once Trump was sworn in as president.”

The Politico piece quoted the senior official from the Obama White House saying, “It seems pretty clear that [former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn] was not a rogue here. I don’t believe that Flynn was the only person promising things to the Russians, communicating to them what would happen once the Trump administration came in.”

Well, that seems … new. The possibility of Team Trump making promises to Russia while Russia was illegally helping Team Trump has lurked in the background for months, and if there’s evidence to support this, it would obviously take this scandal, which is already quite serious, to a whole new level.