Senators Press Obama Confidante Susan Rice About ‘Unusual Email’

Former national security adviser is quizzed about self-serving message she sent to herself about Russia probe and former president's directives

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are demanding answers from former national security adviser Susan Rice about an “unusual” email that she sent herself shortly before leaving office.

Grassley and Graham uncovered the email during a review of documents related to the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Rice sent the email on Jan. 20, 2017 — the day President Donald Trump took the oath of office. The email documents a meeting earlier that month involving Rice, outgoing President Barack Obama, outgoing Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

“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,'” 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.”

But Rice, after a section that remains classified, indicated Obama discussed sharing the information with the incoming Trump administration.

“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,” Rice wrote. “Comey said he would.”

Grassley and Graham noted in a letter to Rice that they found the timing of the email strange.

“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,” the senators wrote.

“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.'”

For months, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pulling in opposite directions. While Democrats remain hyper-focused on the possibility — so far unproven — that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents to steal the election from Hillary Clinton, Republicans have shined a spotlight on what they regard as the tainted process that led to the probe.

Related: Misconduct in Trump Surveillance Warrant Request Likely Not Prosecutable

Recent revelations indicate that the Department of Justice and the FBI obtained a warrant to eavesdrop on Carter Page, a former volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign, by referencing a dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele as part of opposition research on Trump. It was paid for by 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, which she controlled.

Grassley and Graham gave Rice a February 22 deadline for responding.

Among other queries, they demanded Rice answer the following questions:

  • When did you first become aware of the FBI’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia?
  • When did you become aware of any surveillance activities, including FISA applications, undertaken by the FBI in conducting that investigation? At the time you wrote this email to yourself, were you aware of either the October 2016 FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page or the January 2017 renewal?
  • Did anyone instruct, request, suggest, or imply that you should send yourself the aforementioned Inauguration Day email memorializing President Obama’s meeting with Mr. Comey about the Trump/Russia investigation? If so, who and why?
  • During the meeting, did Mr. Comey or Ms. Yates mention potential press coverage of the Steele dossier? If so, what did they say?
  • During the meeting, did Mr. Comey describe the status of the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele, or the basis for that status?
  • When and how did you first become aware that the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded Mr. Steele’s efforts?
  • You wrote that President Obama stressed that he was “not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective.” Did President Obama ask about, initiate, or instruct anything from any other perspective relating to the FBI’s investigation?
  • Did President Obama have any other meetings with Mr. Comey, Ms. Yates, or other government officials about the FBI’s investigation of allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russia? If so, when did these occur, who participated, and what was discussed?

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected].