WASHINGTON ― Evelyn Farkas, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia until 2015, blasted White House press secretary Sean Spicer Friday after he peddled a conspiracy theory about her role in gathering information on connections between President Donald Trump and Russia.
Spicer spent much of his Friday press conference repeating a claim that has become popular in conservative circles in recent days: that Farkas “revealed” that the administration of former President Barack Obama was spying on Trump, as the new president has repeatedly claimed without evidence.
Farkas replied to Spicer in a tweet:
A Snopes investigation has already debunked Spicer’s talking point, noting that Trump supporters appear to be conflating a Farkas appearance on MSNBC with a New York Times report quoting current officials.
The Times published its story, which described efforts to protect intelligence on Russia’s role in the election, on March 1. Farkas appeared on the channel to discuss it on March 2. She described her own attempt to urge Washington figures, particularly people working on Capitol Hill, to gather information prior to Trump’s inauguration, for fear that political motivations would lead the new team to compromise intelligence-gathering.
Two days later, Trump tweeted that Obama tapped his phones in Trump Tower.
The president and his supporters have been scrambling to justify that assertion since then.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has appeared to support it by saying he has evidence that Trump associates’ information was gathered and revealed as part of intelligence collection before the inauguration. The New York Times has since revealed that White House officials helped supply Nunes with that information.
Farkas began to feature heavily in the Trump administration’s narrative this week, as conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Hugh Hewitt told their thousands of listeners her comments proved Trump correct.
Reince Preibus, the White House chief of staff, called the clip of her MSNBC comments “incredible” in an interview with Hewitt on Thursday, RealClearPolitics reported.
“It’s so cavalier and unbelievable that I just wonder whether this person knows what the heck she’s talking about. I mean, you know what I’m saying?” Preibus said. “It’s sort of like one of these things it’s so much in your face that it makes you wonder what she means.”
With Spicer’s focus on Farkas and the alleged Obama conspiracy dominating the briefing Friday, reporters pressed the Trump spokesman on whether that was more important than proving and documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Americans should be concerned about both matters, Spicer said.
Farkas, who has worked on European security for over 20 years and is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, clearly disagreed.
Her Friday tweet echoed an argument a cybersecurity expert made to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday: By promoting baseless claims and conspiracy theories, Trump helped create an atmosphere that Russia could exploit, former FBI agent Clint Watts said.
“They parrot the same lines,” Watts said of Trump and the Kremlin. “[Trump] denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged. That was the No. 1 theme pushed by RT, Sputnik news.”
Farkas did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for further comment.