An email sent by former National Security Adviser Susan Rice reveals that President Barack Obama had a meeting with FBI Director James Comey and incoming Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office to discuss the Trump-Russia investigation on Jan. 5, 2017, just weeks before Trump was inaugurated as president.
The email stands in sharp contrast with public statements made by the former president, who claims to have not been involved in the FBI’s investigations into Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line and always have maintained it. I guarantee it,” Obama said in an interview on Fox News Sunday in April 2016.
The email also corroborates text messages sent between FBI agents working on the Clinton and Trump cases, that Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.”
Parts of Rice’s emails were released as part of a probe by the Senate Judiciary Committee into the FBI’s investigation into Trump.
The email has raised interest among congressional investigators because it was sent on Rice’s last day in office, Jan. 20, 2017, and appeared to frame the meeting in a particular way.
“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,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote in a joint statement.
The senators have requested more information from Rice about the email, including whether anyone instructed her to write the email memorializing Obama’s meeting with Comey and Yates.
Rice, herself, as well as then-Vice President Joe Biden, were also present for the meeting.
Rice wrote that Obama had told Comey he was committed to ensuring “that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.’”
Recent revelations, however, have shown that neither the investigation into Clinton nor Trump were normal.
“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 congressional letter to Rice stated.
Thousands of text messages obtained by the DOJ inspector general reveal that the lead FBI agent on both the Clinton and Trump cases, Peter Strzok, and a high-ranking FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, had a clear bias in favor of Clinton and against Trump.
One of the text messages, obtained by Congress, reveals a conversation between Strzok and Page discussing a meeting they had in the office of then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe discussing an “insurance policy” against Trump in the event he was elected.
That insurance policy, appears to have been a reference to the FBI’s investigation on Trump for alleged collusion with the Russian government. The investigation was first used, through selective leaks, to cast a shadow over Trump’s presidential run, and later in an attempt to force him out of office through impeachment.
New revelations, however, show that the FBI’s investigation was in large part based on unverified opposition research material paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The dossier, produced by Fusion GPS, was used by the FBI to obtain a FISA surveillance warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. A House Intelligence Committee memo released on Feb. 2 shows that the FBI and DOJ hid the source and financiers of the allegations contained in the dossier from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—a criminal offense.
The spy warrant on Page, could then have been used to spy on everyone connected to him, including members of Trump’s team.
The Rice letter also reveals that Obama instructed Rice and others to potentially limit access of the incoming Trump administration to classified information related 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,” Rice wrote in the email to herself.
National Security Risk
If classified information on Russia was indeed withheld from the Trump administration, it could have posed a serious national security concern.
It could also point to the fact that the Obama team was preventing the Trump team from obtaining certain information related to Russia.
On Feb. 7, a former FBI informant, William Campbell, who was silenced under the Obama administration, revealed to Congress that Russian authorities had hired an American lobbying firm, APCO Worldwide, to influence the Obama administration.
The lobbying firm was also instructed to make four payments of $750,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative, Campbell told Congress, the Hill reported.
After coming to office in 2009, President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the “Russia reset” strategy, which ended up aiding Russia’s quest to become the world’s dominant uranium producer.
In 2010, the Obama administration approved a controversial deal that gave Russia a majority stake in Canadian mining company Uranium One, which at the time controlled 20 percent of uranium production capacity in the United States.
That year, the Obama administration also submitted to Congress the so-called 123 Agreement, which made it easier for U.S. and Russian firms to form joint ventures. It also agreed to a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles.