It has been fascinating to watch the differences of perspective play out in the controversy over possible improper links between Donald Trump’s campaign and people associated with Vladimir Putin. Two illustrations follow. First, listen to Evelyn Farkas described her efforts to alert colleagues in the Obama administration about the need to preserve information pertinent to possible Trump collusion with Putin loyalists.
This is big! Evelyn Farkas admits she helped spy on Trump for Obama. pic.twitter.com/frE05opRHr
— Tennessee (@TEN_GOP) March 29, 2017
The Trump supporter who tweeted this video claims Farkas’ statements establish that she helped Obama spy on Trump. Her statements are being played on right wing outlets this morning as evidence that Obama really did spy on Trump. For instance, Hugh Hewitt played the video for White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and tweeted this:
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) March 30, 2017
Farkas didn’t say she or anyone spied on Trump. In the context of discussing Russian interference in our election, she said there was intelligence about possible connections between Trump’s staff and Russia. Farkas didn’t say how they got the information but she was clear that she didn’t want Trump’s people to keep it from seeing the light of day. Trump supporters are focusing on the possibility that Trump was being surveilled. However, what I think is much more important is the core of Farkas’ claim. She said intelligence exists which ties the Trump campaign in some manner to the Russians. Is the leaking of such information a problem or is it whistleblowing?
Second, watch Speaker of the House Paul Ryan explain Devin Nunes’ decision to brief President Trump about information he received from a “whistleblower-type person.” Keep in mind that Nunes and the Republicans have been quite critical of those who have leaked intelligence to the press. Apparently, whistleblowing is fine but leaking is bad, even though one must leak to blow the whistle.
Ryan: Nunes told me whistleblower gave him info & “he was going to brief others”
(He briefed Trump, not intel cmte)pic.twitter.com/2Mll6lkRHd
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 30, 2017
Trump apologists see in Farkas’ words an admission of spying and vindication for Trump’s claims of being “wiretapped.” They seem more outraged about Trump surveillance than the possibility that Trump’s people colluded with Putin’s people. In contrast, if there was collusion between Trump and/or his campaign staff with the Russians, then I am glad the previous administration found out and preserved the intelligence.