The dominoes are starting to fall, aren't they?
One by one, day by day, the declass expands.
And pressure on Obama mounts.
Today was a big one, the famous (or is that infamous?) Susan Rice email from Inauguration Day.
For some reason, it had been classified until now.
Classified and/or potentially lost.
But President Trump just took care of that with the full release.
Check it out:
Here's why it's important:
Politico had more details on the emerging story:
On the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, outgoing national security adviser Susan Rice sent herself an email that has since drawn intense scrutiny from Republicans.
Now the full text of the email has been declassified, and POLITICO reviewed it. It says that then-FBI Director James Comey worried about sharing classified information with the Trump team because of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s frequent conversations with the Russian ambassador but that Comey had no knowledge of Flynn sharing classified information with the envoy.
Republicans have seized on the document as potential evidence that the outgoing president had ordered the FBI to spy on the new administration, as Trump has alleged. And they have raised questions about the "unusual" nature of Rice memorializing the conversation in an email to herself, suggesting that in warning Comey to proceed "by the book," Obama was implying that top law enforcement officials had done the opposite. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Rice said it shows the Obama administration handled the Flynn situation appropriately.
The email, most of which was already declassified, describes a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting that followed up on an intelligence briefing about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Attendees included then-President Barack Obama; Comey; Sally Yates, who was the acting attorney general; Vice President Joe Biden; and Rice, who was Flynn's predecessor in the job.
The email, which memorialized the meeting two weeks after it happened, said Obama wanted to be sure “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,” the email continued. “He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”
The newly declassified portion describes Comey’s response.
“Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement,” Rice wrote. “From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially.’ He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’ 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 that he would.”
Rice's spokesperson said the email also indicates that the administration didn't interfere in the FBI investigation involving the Trump campaign.
"Furthermore, the email makes clear that the Obama administration did not change the way it briefed Michael Flynn — but rather that President Obama asked Director Comey 'to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team,'" the spokesperson continued in a statement. "In fact, Ambassador Rice briefed Michael Flynn for over 12 hours, on four separate occasions and led the National Security Council in preparing and delivering to him over 100 separate briefing memos. Ambassador Rice did not alter the way she briefed Michael Flynn on Russia as a result of Director Comey’s response."
Was Rice trying to save her own hide?
It sure looks like that may be the case.
Fox News explains:
Historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson told "The Daily Briefing" Wednesday that Obama national security adviser Susan Rice was likely tired of being a "scapegoat" for the administration and was hoping to cover her tracks by writing the newly declassified email she sent to herself on Inauguration Day, 2017.
"During the Benghazi mess, she went out on the directive of Obama on five occasions and lied about the origins, genesis, and the cause of the disaster," Hanson told host Dana Perino. "She was not going to be a scapegoat again."
Hanson said Rice "played that role again and again ... whenever there was a lie in the administration, it was traced back to her.
"And I think that she was kind of apprehensive," he added, suggesting Rice's thought process was "'I'm not going to do this anymore. And I need a document that shows that I was just following Obama's orders, but he was only following what other people told him.'"
Rice's email documented a Jan. 5 Oval Office meeting with Obama and others, during which he provided guidance on how law enforcement should address Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race. Parts of the email had been previously released, but a section stating that then-FBI Director James Comey had suggested that the National Security Council (NSC) might not want to pass “sensitive information related to Russia” to Rice's designated sucessor, Michael Flynn, had been classified as "TOP SECRET" until Tuesday.
Rice wrote that Obama wanted to be sure that his outgoing administration was "mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that [they could not] share information fully as it relates to Russia.”
Comey reportedly reassured Obama and promised he was proceeding "by the book," -- a term Rice emphasized three times throughout the email -- and said that he had "no indication thus far that Flynn [had] passed classified information to [Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak]."
Hanson questioned Rice's emphasis on operating "by the book," which he said might indicate that Obama "ordered her or suggested that people might not want to be candid" in sharing information with Flynn pertaining to Russia.
Rice "was very worried that James Comey or Barack Obama or the mixture of the two might suggest that it happened in the past...," Hansen explained, "and that she would be culpable."
The Five discuss:
And from Karl Rove:
The Federalist had some great insight:
Yesterday’s release of Susan Rice’s inauguration-day email to herself providedfurther evidence of former President Barack Obama’s participation in the FBI’s targeting of Michael Flynn. The recently declassified paragraph in Rice’s email, however, proves significant for another reason: It confirms the FBI had no valid investigative purpose for questioning Flynn on January 24, 2017.
In February 2018, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham announced that as part of their efforts to conduct oversight of the FBI and DOJ they had discovered “a partially unclassified email sent by President Obama’s former National Security Advisor (NSA) Susan Rice to herself on January 20, 2017—President Trump’s inauguration day.”
At the time, the Republican senators noted that in her email Rice “purport[ed] to document a meeting that had taken place more than two weeks before, on January 5, 2017,” and then quoted the unclassified portions of the document:
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 next paragraph was redacted, but Rice then concluded by writing, “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.”
On Tuesday, the previously redacted paragraph was declassified, and buried behind the blackout were details of the Obama administration’s focus on Flynn:
Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement. From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially.’ He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’
This paragraph reveals several significant details. First, Comey distinguished between law enforcement and national security, and was not proceeding “by the book” related to the latter. Second, Obama knew of Comey’s intent and condoned the withholding of information from the incoming administration.
Now, thanks to the additional declassification, we know the purported concerns about Flynn were specific: Comey told President Obama he was concerned about the level of communication with Kislyak and raised the possibility that Flynn might pass classified information to Kislyak.
Of course, it would be entirely normal and appropriate for Flynn to speak with the Russian ambassador as part of the Trump transition team, and there is no reason to believe Flynn would share classified information with Kislyak. In fact, we know from the FBI’s closing memorandum on Flynn that a thorough investigation had revealed no derogatory information.
But Comey cautioned Obama otherwise. Why? And why did Rice belatedly document this conversation?
Possibility one: Comey, and in turn Rice and Obama, truly believed Flynn was compromised and might hand classified information to the Russians. But if that was the case, it was inexcusable for Comey not to brief President-elect Trump on that fear. And it was inexcusable for then-President Obama not to direct Comey to provide that briefing.
The second possibility is that no one suspected Flynn of being a Russian agent, but the FBI needed a pretext to continue to investigate Flynn so it could justify withholding details of the broader Crossfire Hurricane investigation from Flynn and thereby Trump. Either possibility is a huge political scandal that runs right through Comey to Obama.
However, there is a second significance to the details released yesterday, namely the declassified paragraph, when read together with other recently released documents, confirms that when FBI Agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka questioned Flynn on January 24, 2017, the FBI had no valid investigative purpose.
It was during that January 24, 2017 questioning of Flynn that the retired general purportedly lied to Strzok and Pientka about his conversations with Kislyak. In late 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI, but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea.