Two leading Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a redacted top secret email Monday that Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice appears to have sent herself just minutes after President Donald Trump took office.
The email contains Rice’s impressions from a January 5, 2017 meeting on “Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election” between then-President Barack Obama, then-FBI Director James Comey, and “intelligence community leadership.”
According to Rice, President Obama and Comey had a “follow-on conversation” after the formal meeting during which Obama told Comey that “from a national security perspective” he wanted “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.” President Obama then asked Comey to inform him of any changes that would affect how his White House should share classified information with the incoming Trump administration.
Separately, Rice claims Obama told Comey that he wanted the Russia investigation handled “by the book” and that “from a law enforcement perspective” he was not “asking about, initiating or instructing anything.”
Rice herself claims to have been present at the meeting and to have stayed for this “follow-on conversation,” along with then-Vice President Joe Biden, and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who weeks later would become a darling of the left-leaning press after she was fired over her refusal to enforce President Trump’s first travel ban on certain terror-prone Muslim majority countries.
The Senate Judiciary Committee obtained the email from the National Archives as part of its investigation into potential political bias and influence in the FBI’s handling of the “Russia investigation” and the infamous Fusion GPS “dossier” that was used to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on one-time Trump associate Carter Page.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee chairman, announced their discovery of the email Monday when they released a letter they addressed to Rice on February 8. The two senators tell Rice:
It strikes us as odd that, among your activities in the final moments on the final day of the Obama administration, you would feel the need to send yourself such an unusual email purporting to document a conversation involving President Obama and his interactions with the FBI regarding the Trump/Russia investigation. In addition, despite your claim that President Obama repeatedly told Mr. Comey to proceed “by the book,” substantial questions have arisen about whether officials at the FBI, as well as at the Justice Department and the State Department, actually did proceed “by the book.”
The public version of the letter includes a redacted version of Rice’s email indicating it once held a “top secret” classification. The letter makes reference to an unredacted still-classified version of the email.
Grassley and Graham are demanding Rice provide their Committee answers about her email by a February 22 deadline. The questions included are as follows:
1. Did you send the email attached to this letter to yourself? Do you have any reason to dispute the timestamp of the email?
2. When did you first become aware of the FBI’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia?
3. When did you become aware of any surveillance activities, including FISA applications, undertaken by the FBI in conducting that investigation? At the time you wrote this email to yourself, were you aware of either the October 2016 FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page or the January 2017 renewal?
4. Did anyone instruct, request, suggest, or imply that you should send yourself the aforementioned Inauguration Day email memorializing President Obama’s meeting with Mr. Comey about the Trump/Russia investigation? If so, who and why?
5. Is the account of the January 5, 2017 meeting presented in your email accurate? Did you omit any other portions of the conversation?
6. Other than that email, did you document the January 5, 2017 meeting in any way, such as contemporaneous notes or a formal memo? To the best of your knowledge, did anyone else at that meeting take notes or otherwise memorialize the meeting?
7. During the meeting, did Mr. Comey or Ms. Yates mention potential press coverage of the Steele dossier? If so, what did they say?
8. During the meeting, did Mr. Comey describe the status of the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele, or the basis for that status?
9. When and how did you first become aware of the allegations made by Christopher Steele?
10. When and how did you first become aware that the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded Mr. Steele’s efforts?
11. You wrote that President Obama stressed that he was “not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective.” Did President Obama ask about, initiate, or instruct anything from any other perspective relating to the FBI’s investigation?
12. Did President Obama have any other meetings with Mr. Comey, Ms. Yates, or other government officials about the FBI’s investigation of allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russia? If so, when did these occur, who participated, and what was discussed?
The January 5, 2017 meeting Rice references in her email would have occurred just months after, as Rice herself has admitted, she “unmasked” certain Trump campaign members’ communications during the transition.
Rice, who in her retirement from public service has taken up a research post at American University, has remained critical of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, but has largely refrained from weighing in on the Russia investigation.