White House, Fox News are now blaming an ex-Obama Pentagon Russia expert for the Trump leaks

Evelyn Farkas testifies before Congress in 2014
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

During the 2016 election, Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign tried to counter a steady drip of damaging leaks by pointing out that hacking and leaking emails (as WikiLeaks was doing) is illegal. Republicans and the Trump White House have been turning to the same winning strategy, trying to focus on the leakers instead of the material about Russia being leaked, and their latest target is Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia until September 2015.

On Tuesday, an edited version of a March 2 interview Farkas did on MSNBC about a March 1 New York Times article started spreading online, and Fox News host Sean Hannity focused on Farkas Wednesday and Thursday nights, accusing her of leaking classified intelligence and portraying her interview as proof that former President Obama surveilled President Trump's transition team — a claim Trump tweeted out on March 4, two days after the Farkas interview. On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that senior White House staff was huddling to discuss Farkas, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned Farkas by name in Thursday's press briefing. CNN wrapped all that video up on Thursday night, plus Farkas' incredulous reaction:

CNN contributor and vocal Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord reached out to Farkas, a fellow alumnus of Franklin and Marshall College, offering to let her tell her side of the story. She did, writing in The American Spectator that the edited video was "a wild misinterpretation of comments I made on the air." She is, she noted, "out of government, I didn't have any classified information, or any knowledge of 'tapping' or leaking or the NYT article before it came out. But I knew well from my time in government how the Russians operated and ... I wanted to make sure that the standard procedure of White House briefing the Congress was taking place so that Congress knew everything the White House knew about what the Russians had done." Farkas did say that, "at the end of the interview," she said the phrase Spicer quoted — "that's why they leaked" — explaining that she "got cut off. If I'd had time I would have explained that leaking is illegal and I would never condone it." Read her version of events at The American Spectator.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.