Politics

Senator Wants Email About Oval Office Meeting Featuring Obama Declassified

Update: The email was declassified Tuesday after the request from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

Previous story below.

A Senate committee chairman is calling for the declassification of an unusual email that recounts what took place in an Oval Office meeting in January 2017, shortly before then-President Barack Obama left office.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, asked Attorney General William Barr to declassify the portion of the email that remains shielded from public view.

“It is essential that Congress and the American people understand what occurred” during a Jan. 5, 2017, meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Johnson wrote in a letter to Barr on May 18.

The declassification of the email “will assist these efforts,” he said.

The email was sent on Jan. 20, 2017, by Susan Rice, who was national security adviser at the time, to herself. In it, she recounted the meeting involving herself, Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey, and then-acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Rice recalled Obama discussing an investigation into Trump and the president-elects campaign.

Obama 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,'” according to Rice.

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Newly appointed national security adviser Susan Rice speaks after President Barack Obama appointed her during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 5, 2013. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Obama also 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.

While most of the email is viewable by the public, a block of text appearing to contain one long paragraph is redacted, or blacked out.

A spokesperson for Rice told Politico that the former official “would welcome the release of the entirety of her Jan. 20, 2017, email.”

The email was initially discovered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). In a letter to Rice in 2018, they described the message as odd and unusual.

“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,” they wrote in a letter to Rice.

“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.”

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President Donald Trump in the White House with National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (C) and chief strategist Steve Bannon (R). (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Grassley said on the Senate floor last week that on Jan. 12, 2017, someone in the Obama administration illegally leaked details of a call between Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Michael Flynn, then-President-elect Donald Trumps incoming national security adviser.

Twelve days later, Comey chose to ignore normal protocols in sending agents to interview Flynn, something Comey later bragged about.

“I sent them. Something I probably wouldnt have done or even gotten away with in a more organized investigation, a more organized administration,” he said in 2018.

In a recently declassified interview, Rice told lawmakers in 2017 after Trump entered office that there wasnt any “smoking” evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.

“I dont recall intelligence that I would consider evidence to that effect that I saw … conspiracy prior to my departure,” she said. Asked about evidence of coordination or collusion, she said she didnt recall any intelligence or evidence to that effect.

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