On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice asking her to explain an email she sent to herself on the last day of her duty in the White House. That email was an email from Rice to . . . Rice. And it explained that President Obama had held a briefing on January 5 regarding supposed Trump-Russia collusion. According to the letter:
"If the timestamp is correct, you sent this email to yourself at 12:15 pm, presumably a very short time before you departed the White House for the last time. In this email to yourself, you purport to document a meeting that had taken place more than two weeks before, on January 5, 2017."
Here’s what Rice wrote:
On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present…President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book”. The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book. From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia…The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.
There are several portions of this email that should be disturbing.
First, why was Rice sending a memo to herself, except to create a paper trail designed to paste a friendly gloss on a rather suspicious meeting? Second, how exactly would Obama have planned to prevent the intelligence community from handing over information to the incoming commander-in-chief? Trump has full constitutional power over the executive branch, including the intelligence community. Yet Obama presumably said that he might want to prevent the full sharing of information regarding Russia. Third, Obama said he didn’t want to interfere with anything from a law enforcement perspective. But how about from an intelligence-gathering perspective?
Furthermore, the double emphasis on Obama stating that he wanted to proceed “by the book” smacks of a bit too much protest. Did Obama really want to proceed by the book? Or did he say that for effect?
Grassley and Graham ask a series of questions that deserve answers:
- Why did Rice send the email?
- When was she aware of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation?
- Was she aware of the FISA warrant on Carter Page?
- Did Comey or Yates mention any media coverage of the Steele dossier?
- Was she aware of the Steele dossier?
- Were there any more meetings of this sort?
The email is certainly odd. It will be fascinating to see if Rice bothers to answer the questions.