Barack Obama installed Susan Rice as his National Security Advisor in recognition of her service to him as knave and fool in the matter of Benghazi. As National Security Advisor she sent an email on Obama’s last day in office shortly before President Trump inauguration. Released in redacted form on February 12, the email is one of the most intriguing bits of evidence to have emerged in the alleged Russian collusion scandal. The email purports to memorialize a January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting including President Obama, Comey, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Vice President Biden and Rice herself regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. What a crew.
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.
As part of their oversight efforts, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and subcommittee chairman Graham obtained the email from the National Archives in response to their request for records of meetings between President Obama and Comey in the collusion investigation. Rice sent the email to herself with a copy to Curtis Ried (Twitter feed here) on January 20, 2017. Grassley and Graham were struck by the context and timing of this email and sent a follow up letter to Rice. The letter reads in part:
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.”
According to the email, the meeting further took up the question whether Trump could be trusted with “information fully as it relates to Russia.” Andrew McCarthy authoritatively explicated Rice’s email in the NR column “What Did Comey Tell President Trump about the Steele Dossier?”
Susan Rice has now responded to Senators Grassley and Graham through attorney Kathryn Ruemmler. Ruemmler is the global co-chairman of the Latham & Watkins white collar criminal defense practice. She formerly served as White House Counsel to Obama.
Ruemmler’s letter on behalf of Rice asserts that denies that there was anything unusual about Rice’s email purporting to memorialize a crucial meeting two weeks after the meeting had occurred, on her way out the door. Ruemmler’s letter on behalf of Rice states:
The memorandum to file drafted by Ambassador Rice memorialized an important national security discussion between President Obama and the FBI Director and the Deputy Attorney General. President Obama and his national security team were justifiably concerned about potential risks to the Nation’s security from sharing highly classified information about Russia with certain members of the Trump transition team, particularly Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
In light of concerning communications between members of the Trump team and Russian officials, before and after the election, President Obama, on behalf of his national security team, appropriately sought the FBI and the Department of Justice’s guidance on this subject. In the conversation Ambassador Rice documented, there was no discussion of Christopher Steele or the Steele dossier, contrary to the suggestion in your letter.
Given the importance and sensitivity of the subject matter, and upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office, Ambassador Rice created a permanent record of the discussion. Ambassador Rice memorialized the discussion on January 20, because that was the first opportunity she had to do so, given the particularly intense responsibilities of the National Security Advisor during the remaining days of the Administration and transition.
Ambassador Rice memorialized the discussion in an email sent to herself during the morning of January 20, 2017. The time stamp reflected on the email is not accurate, as Ambassador Rice departed the White House shortly before noon on January 20.
While serving as National Security Advisor, Ambassador Rice was not briefed on the existence of any FBI investigation into allegations of collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, and she later learned of the fact of this investigation from Director Comey’s subsequent public testimony. Ambassador Rice was not informed of any FISA applications sought by the FBI in its investigation, and she only learned of them from press reports after leaving office.
Ruemmler’s statement goes on offense about “concerning” discussions intercepted by Rice’s colleagues at the NSA along with the “distraction” routine practiced by lying Democratic liars. Ruemmler serves up a lame excuse for the tardiness of Rice’s email and slyly inserts a reference to advice of White House Counsel. In substance, however, Ruemmler’s statement cries “nobody here but us chickens,” just as Rice’s email itself did. There seems to be a postmodern echo in here.
The Grassley/Graham letter posed 12 numbered questions to Rice. I posted the Grassley/Graham letter and the appended Rice email via Scribd in “Susan Rice papers the record.” Ruemmler’s letter to Senators Grassley et al. is embedded below. By my reckoning, Ruemmler’s letter answers question 1, part of question 4, and narrowly responds to one or two others with a dollop of the Obama defense (she learned about it in the newspapers). For some reason or other — no excuse is offered on this score — Ruemmler’s letter declines to answer the rest of the questions submitted to Rice.