Obama officials worked to leave investigators a trail on Russia: report

Obama administration officials worked to diffuse information throughout the government about Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election and alleged contacts between associates of President Trump and Russian officials as Obama’s term ended, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The officials’ goals, they said, were to leave a trail of intelligence for future investigators and to prevent another meddling attempt in a U.S. or European election.

The situation was described by more than six current and former officials to the Times.

{mosads}Three former U.S. officials told the newspaper that British and Dutch allies supplied information about meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials in European cities. And U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted calls from Russian officials discussing contacts with Trump’s associates.

Officials sought to disseminate the information through the government by asking certain questions during intelligence briefings that would be put on the record, maintaining as low of a classification level as possible on reports, and providing lawmakers, like Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), with documents, apparently to make any future investigations easier. 

On the other hand, officials worked to further protect particularly sensitive information, the report said, such as the identities of sources and foreign individuals who were under surveillance. 

President Obama did not direct the effort, officials said. Obama did call for a full report on Russian efforts, a declassified version of which was released near the end of his presidency. 

The intelligence community report released concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an influence campaign aimed at helping Trump win the White House.

“This situation was serious, as is evident by President Obama’s call for a review — and as is evident by the United States response,” Eric Schultz, Obama’s spokesman, told the newspaper. “When the intelligence community does that type of comprehensive review, it is standard practice that a significant amount of information would be compiled and documented.”

The New York Times reported last month that a number of Trump campaign aides and associates were in contact with Russian officials through the campaign. The White House and Russia have strongly denied the allegations. 

Tags Ben Cardin Russia

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