Declaring again that no evidence exists of any links between Russian actions in the 2016 elections and the campaign for President by Donald Trump, the White House on Friday forcefully argued that the real issue that deserves investigation by Congress is whether Obama Administration officials actively spread surveillance regarding the Trump campaign, both before the election and afterwards during the Trump Transition.
"People misused, mishandled, misdirected classified information, leaked it out, spread it out, violated civil liberties," charged White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who argued it should concern "every single American."
"Day by day, more and more we are seeing the substance of what we've been talking about, continues to move exactly in the direction that the President spoke about in terms of surveillance that occurred," Spicer told reporters, citing a new story from NBC that said Obama Administration officials had tried to make sure intelligence related to Trump didn't disappear.
Other than intelligence leaks about former top aide Michael Flynn, Spicer offered no evidence on what else was supposedly circulated among intelligence agencies about Mr. Trump, or how far back the surveillance went.
For a second straight day, Spicer again harped on an almost month old interview with a former Pentagon official from the Obama Administration, Evelyn Farkas, who fully admitted to MSNBC that she had urged former colleagues to save any intelligence that might relate to Trump.
Farkas left the Pentagon in late 2015, and was not there during the 2016 campaign, or during the transition to the Trump Administration.
Farkas said this week that she personally had no intelligence to spread, because she was not working for the U.S. government during that time. In a tweet, she made clear what she thought of Spicer's reference to her.
Asked about former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whose lawyers seemed to be suggesting that he get immunity to testify before Congress, Spicer stood behind President Trump's tweet on that subject.
"What he's asking is, go testify, get it out there," Spicer told reporters.
"He believes that Mike Flynn should go testify. He thinks that he should go up there and do what he has to do to get the story out," Spicer said.
"Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt," the President said on Twitter, once more charging that Democrats were being sore losers in their pursuit of the Russia probe.
On Capitol Hill, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said it was too early to consider immunity for Flynn.
"Moreover, when the time comes to consider requests for immunity from any witness, we will of course require a detailed proffer of any intended testimony," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Flynn was forced out of his White House post after leaks surfaced that he had been monitored by U.S. Intelligence in phone conversations with the Russian Ambassador.
The White House has repeatedly said the focus of any probe should look squarely at the leaks - who gave that information to news organizations, as supporters of the President have blamed unnamed Obama Administration officials.
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.