Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell has fully-declassified an email that former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice emailed to herself hours before leaving the White House on January 20, 2017.
Grenell’s move was first reported Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel and confirmed by Breitbart News.
Rice sent herself an email memorializing a now-scrutinized meeting at the White House on January 5, 2017, where then-President Obama discussed with his top advisers calls between incoming Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and a Russian ambassador that would illegally leak to the media and that FBI officials would later use for Flynn’s prosecution.
The email was first released in 2018 by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham, but it remained partially classified.
The previously-unclassified portion of Rice’s email said:
On January 5, following a briefing by [Intelligence Community] leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversations 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.
The newly-declassified portion of the email revealed that Comey said he was proceeding “by the book,” and that he had concerns Flynn was speaking to Kislyak too frequently, though he did not express any other concerns, including about what Flynn was saying to Kislyak. Rice wrote:
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.’
The January 5, 2017, meeting at the White House has come under scrutiny, as Republicans try to determine how involved then-President Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and other administration leaders were in the investigation of a political campaign. Also present at the meeting were then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, then-CIA Director John Brennan, then-FBI Director James Comey, and others.
Recently-released transcripts revealed that Obama knew details about an FBI investigation into Flynn, including his calls with the Russian ambassador, and had actually informed then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates of the calls at the White House on January 5, 2017.
Grassley and Graham wrote in a letter to Rice after discovering her email that it struck them as “odd” that she would feel the need to write the email to herself in the waning hours of the Obama administration.
They wrote, “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.’”