Now that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report has been published, we have a definite answer to the question of whether President Donald Trump colluded with Russia.
There are many questions that remain, however, about the origins of the investigation into Trump.
For example, why did the FBI investigate a presidential candidate, using false information paid for by the opposing political campaign?
And why was the British government spying on members of the Trump campaign and passing this information on—as unofficial intelligence—to the CIA director at the time, John Brennan, who then used it to push then-FBI Director James Comey to open the investigation of Trump?
But perhaps the most significant, yet largely unexplored, question is this: What was President Barack Obama’s involvement in the investigations?
We know that several senior members of Obama’s Cabinet either played an active role in the investigations, spied on the Trump campaign, or received the false information that he colluded with Russia.
Secretary of State John Kerry, for example, had been made aware of the false information contained in the so-called Steele dossier. We know as much from an op-ed published by former Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer, who said he had received the information from Christopher Steele and had passed it on to high-ranking official Victoria Nuland, who “felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.”
Obama himself also had been given a summary of the Steele dossier, which was attached to an intelligence report by Brennan, Comey, and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in January 2017. It’s possible that Obama might have received information contained in the Steele dossier from Brennan as early as August 2016.
Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, along with his ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, had made hundreds of unmasking requests for the identities of members of the Trump campaign in intelligence reports. Power would later claim that someone else in the Obama administration had made the requests in her name.
Then, there was an Oval Office meeting between Obama, Rice, Comey, and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on Jan. 5, 2017.
The meeting was recounted by Rice in an unusual email she addressed to herself, sent 15 days after the meeting, on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of Trump’s inauguration. The email was marked “top secret,” but parts of it have since been declassified.
In the email, Rice wrote: “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.”
This raises the question of why Obama felt it was necessary to say those things, and why Rice felt it was necessary to recollect these statements to herself in an email on the day she was leaving the White House.
Rice’s email also states that Obama told the officials to be “mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia” with the incoming Trump administration. Does this mean that potentially vital national security information was withheld from the Trump transition team over the false Russia-collusion allegations?
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt compelled to question Rice in a Feb. 8, 2018, letter about the email, asking her—among other things—”Did President Obama ask about, initiate, or instruct anything from any other perspective relating to the FBI’s investigation?”
Rice’s lawyer would respond to the letter later that month, saying she sent herself the email “upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office.”
These are serious questions that deserve to be investigated. For over two years, the American public has been sold a fake narrative that Trump colluded with Russia to manipulate the 2016 presidential election in his favor.
Getting to the bottom of how these investigations were started, what the exact actions were by officials entrusted with power—including the former president—and whether any of them were politically motivated is key to restoring public trust in our institutions.