Grenell declassifies Susan Rice email sent on Inauguration Day
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified an email former national security adviser Susan Rice sent to herself on President Trump’s Inauguration Day about an Oval Office meeting in which the Russia investigation was discussed.
In the email, obtained by The Hill from the office of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rice says then-FBI Director James Comey was worried about sharing classified information with the Trump team, considering incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador.
Most of the email was already declassified in February per another Republican Senate request. The newly declassified portion reflects Comey’s response, in which he said he was proceeding “by the book” and that he was concerned Flynn was still in contact with the Russian ambassador, noting that their “level of communication is unusual.”
When then-President Obama asked if the intelligence community should withhold information from Flynn, who was an incoming national security adviser, Comey responded, “Potentially.”
Johnson asked Attorney General William Barr on Monday to “fully declassify” the email about the Jan. 5, 2017, meeting, which has become a growing focus of GOP lawmakers who are investigating the handling of the investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign.
Some Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), have questioned how closely Obama was involved in the Flynn investigation, and Republicans are hoping the Rice email will shed new light on the probe. Grassley also released the newly declassified portion of the email to reporters.
Grenell said at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that the intelligence community “is very interested in providing policymakers, everybody around this table, with raw intelligence that is not politicized in any possible way.”
This month, the Justice Department made the controversial recommendation to drop the case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with a Russian official before Trump took office.
The 2017 meeting described in Rice’s email included Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden as well as Justice Department and intelligence officials.
Last week, Grenell sent Congress a document from the National Security Agency listing government officials who requested the “unmasking” of Flynn in intelligence reports dated between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration. “Unmasking,” or the revealing of an unnamed individual in government documents, is not an uncommon request for officials who have clearance for the information.
Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 general election, is among the officials named.
Updated 4:50 p.m.