Fox News reports former FBI Director James Comey suggested to then-President Barack Obama in a January 2017 meeting that the National Security Council might not want to pass “sensitive information related to Russia” to then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a newly declassified email that Flynn’s predecessor sent herself on Inauguration Day.
The note from Susan Rice was declassified by Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and transmitted to the Justice Department. Fox News obtained a copy Tuesday from GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s office, which had sought access to the document.
The Jan. 20, 2017 email Rice sent to herself documented a Jan. 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting with Obama and others, where he provided guidance on how law enforcement should investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race. Parts of it were previously released, but the section on Comey’s response had been classified as “TOP SECRET” until now.
The section says that Comey affirmed to Obama he was proceeding “by the book.”
Rice continued: “From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information. President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn.”
RIce then wrote, “Comey replied ‘potentially.’ He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.'”
Republicans have zeroed in on the Susan Rice email amid heightened questions over the handling of the Russia probe and top-level awareness inside the Obama administration.
Sens. Johnson, R-Wis., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had requested that the Trump administration declassify Rice’s entire email late Monday.
Rice’s email to herself was first flagged in 2018 by Grassley, R-Iowa, the former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who now sits as chairman of the panel. The email was partially unclassified at the time and appeared to detail the Jan. 5, 2017, meeting, which included Obama, Rice, then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“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 emailed to herself. “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.”
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