Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice has responded to questions by Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham about a mysterious email Amb. Rice emailed herself shortly before leaving the White House for the last time in January 2017.
The email documents a meeting that took place some two weeks before, on January 5, in the Oval Office, between President Obama, former FBI Director James Comey, Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Vice President Biden, and Rice. In the email, Rice says that Obama stressed his continued commitment to making sure that the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election was done “by the book.”
She sent the email to herself on January 20, 2017, the last day of the Obama administration and a day before President Trump was to be inaugurated.
Rice also wrote in her email that former President Obama wanted to determine whether there was any reason to believe that information gleaned from the investigation could not be shared with 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.
Graham and Grassley asked Rice a series of questions about the meeting, including what she meant by “by the book.” They also asked her to explain the reason for sending the email to herself. “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,” Graham and Grassley write.
In a response to the letter, attorney Kathryn H. Ruemmler of the law firm Latham & Watkins, tells the Senators Rice was directed to send the letter by White House Counsel. “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,” Ruemmler writes in a letter on behalf of Rice.
“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,” she added.
It is not clear whether Ambassador Rice knew of inappropriate phone calls that took place between Gen. Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. in the weeks immediately preceding the meeting. A request for comment form Ms. Ruemmler was not immediately returned.
But Ruemmler did write in her letter that Rice was not aware of the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign at the time of the meeting, and that she wouldn’t become aware of it until former FBI Director James Comey publicized it in subsequent congressional testimony.
“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,” Ruemmler writes explaining Rice’s delay.
She also wrote that Rice has been cooperative in Congress’ efforts to get to the bottom of any possible wrongdoing during the 2016 presidential election.
“Ambassador Rice believes that it is critical that Congress fully and faithfully investigate Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 Presidential election, including the actions taken by the Government to respond to those efforts. To that end, she has testified voluntarily in connection with the inquiries being conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) on that topic,” she wrote.
“I trust this satisfies your need for information on this topic,” she added, addressing Grassley and Graham.