The Obama administration worked in its final weeks in office to undermine the incoming Trump White and continues to do so, according to multiple sources both in and out of the White House.
Behind the effort, these sources say, are senior government officials who previously worked under President Obama and remain loyal to his agenda. These individuals leak negative information about the Trump White House and its senior staff to a network of former Obama administration officials who then plant this information in key media outlets including the Washington Post and New York Times.
Meanwhile, holdovers from the Obama administration are working to undermine the Trump administration’s agenda through efforts to alter official communications, a number of administration officials confirmed in conversations with the Washington Free Beacon.
Multiple sources expressed concern over what they described as an unprecedented effort by the former administration to subvert President Donald Trump’s team. These sources would only speak on background because they were not officially authorized to publicly discuss the situation, which is said to have fostered a level of discomfort and distrust in the West Wing.
The Free Beacon first reported on several portions of this effort earlier this year, including separate campaigns to undermine current CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, both of whom were subjected to leaks aimed at undermining their credibility.
“We have members of the former administration at the highest levels who through their actions after January 20 have demonstrated their refusal to recognize the results of the general election,” one senior administration official told the Free Beacon. “They have pursued, organized, and managed a comprehensive subversion of the new administration.”
In one instance, Trump administration officials found evidence that the administration’s executive order banning travel from certain Muslim-majority nations had been selectively altered to bring it more in line with Obama-era talking points.
Several hours before the orders were set to be signed by Trump, officials noticed that language concerning “radical Islamic terrorism” had been stripped from the order and replaced with Obama-era language about countering violent extremism.
West Wing staffers quickly scrambled to rewrite the order to bring it back in line with Trump’s rhetoric, sources told the Free Beacon. The alteration of these directives is said to have spooked some senior officials working on the issue.
A series of targeted leaks also has fostered concerns that Obama administration holdovers are seeking to handicap the new administration.
Several weeks before his resignation, former national security adviser Flynn requested staff assemble an in-house phonebook that included contact information for senior White House staff. Before Flynn signed off on the effort, the phonebook was leaked to the press.
Additionally, the previous administration permitted staff to accrue substantial amounts of vacation time in its last year in office. As soon as team Trump entered the White House, it was obligated to pay out all of these hours. White House sources say the cost was in the millions of dollars.
The payout prevented the Trump White House from hiring key staff in its opening days due to insufficient funds, according to those familiar with the situation. Flynn, for instance, was able to hire only 22 people to work on the White House National Security Council, which topped around 420 staffers under Obama.
“They put landmines everywhere,” according to one senior administration official.
Outside of the White House, meanwhile, a team of former Obama administration officials is working to subvert Trump’s agenda.
Former Obama administration officials such as Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama’s pro-Iran press operation, and Colin Kahl, a senior national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, have engaged in public efforts to “purge” the current White House of officials they disagree with.
Earlier this month, Kahl admitted on Twitter that he is seeking to provoke the firings of Trump’s handpicked team “in the West Wing,” including senior advisers Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, and NSC leaders Michael Anton and KT McFarland.
As part of this effort, Kahl, Rhodes, and others have leaked damaging stories about these officials to allies in the media.
The latest target, Gorka, has been falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and an Islamophobe. The campaign against Flynn unfolded in a similar manner and sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter speculated that these leaks will continue.
“They have a network of journalists for whom they have served as sources and they have fed stuff to these journalists,” one senior U.S. official told the Free Beacon. “That’s what pretty obviously is going on. I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never heard of it happening throughout history.”
Putting the current White House in a permanent state of defense is a key objective of this strategy, according to one senior Republican foreign policy operative who is close to the White House.
“Part of this campaign, of course, was the media operation of selective leaks, many of which were illegal and directly targeted the staff and officials of the incoming Trump administration,” the source said.
This targeted media campaign is similar to the method used by Rhodes and others to push the Iran nuclear deal.
“You can tell what’s clearly going on because many of the same media outlets who formed crucial parts of Ben Rhodes’ Iran Deal ‘echo chamber’ are springing to launch coordinated attacks on Sebastian Gorka today,” said one longtime political consultant who is close to the White House NSC. “The way it works is, one highly partisan journalist goes out on a limb in dishonestly characterizing the target. That dishonest story is used to build on the next, in which the original lie is taken as fact, and then repeated in an echo chamber until it becomes conventional wisdom.”