Two Republican senators say they’ve uncovered an “unusual email” that Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham say they find the email odd because of the timing and the substance of the message. They also noted that Rice suggested there was talk of withholding classified information from the incoming Trump administration.
Rice sent the email at 12:15 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2017, her final day in office. In the message, she memorialized a Jan. 5 Oval Office meeting she attended with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
The topic was the ongoing investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion. According to press reports, Comey briefed Obama that day on the unverified Steele dossier.
Grassley and Graham laid out their concerns with the email in a letter sent to Rice last week.
“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 her email, Rice wrote to herself:
On January 5, following a briefing by [Intelligence Community] leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.
She said that 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,” she continued.
Rice also wrote that there was a discussion over whether classified information regarding Russia should be withheld from the incoming Trump administration.
“From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia,” she wrote.
Grassley and Graham noted that the next portion of the email contained classified information and remains redacted. In the next section, Rice wrote: “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.”
Grassley and Graham, who serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, say they question whether the Obama team conducted the Trump investigation “by the book.”
The two Republicans recently sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein referring Steele for possible criminal investigation for misleading the FBI about his work on the dossier.
The dossier was cited “extensively” in the FBI and DOJ’s application for a FISA warrant that was granted to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on Oct. 21, 2016. The application also cited a Yahoo! News article that was based on the dossier to justify the warrant. But according to Grassley and Graham, the FBI did not know that the article was based on the dossier. And that’s because Steele did not tell investigators that he had met with reporters to discuss his Trump investigation.
In their letter, Grassley and Graham ask Rice if she was aware of the Page FISA and whether she knew about the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier.