Susan Rice's bizarre Inauguration Day email about that meeting helps explain the campaign of leaks, lies, and obstruction that followed.
Information released in the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case it brought against Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn confirms the significance of a January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama White House. It was at this meeting that Obama gave guidance to key officials who would be tasked with protecting his administration’s utilization of secretly funded Clinton campaign research, which alleged Trump was involved in a treasonous plot to collude with Russia, from being discovered or stopped by the incoming administration.
“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,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote in an unusual email to herself about the meeting that was also attended by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, and Vice President Joe Biden.
A clearer picture is emerging of the drastic steps that were taken to accomplish Obama’s goal in the following weeks and months. Shortly thereafter, high-level operatives began intensely leaking selective information supporting a supposed Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the incoming National Security Advisor was ambushed, and the incoming Attorney General was forced to recuse himself from oversight of investigations of President Trump. At each major point in the operation, explosive media leaks were a key strategy in the operation to take down Trump.
Not only was information on Russia not fully shared with the incoming Trump team, as Obama directs, the leaks and ambushes made the transition chaotic, scared quality individuals away from working in the administration, made effective governance almost impossible, and materially damaged national security. When Comey was finally fired on May 9, in part for his duplicitousness regarding his handling of the Russia collusion theory, he orchestrated the launch of a Special Counsel probe that continued his efforts for another two years. That probe ended with Mueller finding no evidence of any American colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, much less Trump or anyone connected to him.
An analysis of the timeline from early 2017 shows a clear pattern of behavior from the federal officials running the collusion operation against the Trump campaign. It also shows how essential media leaks were to their strategy to sideline key law enforcement and intelligence officials and cripple the ability of the incoming Trump administration to run the country.
Here’s a timeline of the key moments and news articles of the efforts, per Obama’s direction, to prevent the Trump administration from learning about the FBI’s operation against it.
January 4: Following the closure of a pretextually dubious and politically motivated FBI investigation of Flynn at the beginning of January, the leadership of the FBI scrambled to reopen a case against Flynn, the man who in his role as National Security Advisor would have to review their Russia collusion investigation. FBI officials openly discussed their concern about briefing the veteran intelligence official on what they had done to the Trump campaign and transition team and what they were planning to do to the incoming Trump administration. Flynn had to be dealt with. The FBI’s top counterintelligence official would later memorialize discussions about the FBI’s attempts to “get [Flynn] fired.” No reopening was needed, they determined, when they discovered they had failed to close the previous investigation. They found this mistake “amazing” and “serendipitously good” and said “our utter incompetence actually helps us.” Even more noteworthy were texts from FBI’s #2 counterintelligence official Peter Strzok to FBI lawyer Lisa Page noting that the “7th floor,” a reference to Comey and his deputy director Andrew McCabe, was running the show.
January 5: Yates, Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper briefed Obama on Russia-related matters in the Oval Office. Biden and Rice also attended. After the Obama briefing, the intelligence chiefs who would be leaving at the end of the term were dismissed and Yates and Comey, who would continue in the Trump administration, were asked to stay. Not only did Obama give his guidance about how to perpetuate the Russia collusion theory investigations, he also talked about Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to both Comey and Yates. Interestingly, Clapper, Comey, and Yates all said that they did not brief Obama about these phone calls. Clapper testified he did not brief Obama on the calls, Yates learned about the calls from Obama himself during that meeting, and Comey also testified he didn’t brief Obama about the calls, even though the intelligence was an FBI product. Rice, who publicly lied but later admitted under oath to her widespread use of unmasked intelligence at the end of the Obama administration, likely briefed Obama on the calls and would have had access to the intelligence. Comey mentions the Logan Act at this meeting.
It was this meeting that Rice memorialized in a bizarre inauguration-day email to herself that claimed Obama told the gathered to do everything “by the book.” But Rice also noted in her email that the key point of discussion in that meeting was whether and how to withhold national security information, likely including details of the investigation into Trump himself, from the incoming Trump national security team.