GOP chairman asks Barr to declassify Susan Rice email

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  MORE (R-Wis.) is asking Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent Trump administration awarding M in housing grants to human trafficking survivors Trump stokes conspiracy about Epstein death, stands by wishes for Ghislaine Maxwell MORE to declassify a 2017 email that former national security adviser Susan Rice sent about an Oval Office meeting in which the Russia investigation was discussed.

Johnson, in a letter to Barr, urged him to "fully declassify" the email, which Rice sent to herself, about the Jan. 5, 2017, meeting, which has become a growing focus of GOP lawmakers who are investigating the handling of the investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.

"The significance of that meeting is becoming increasingly apparent as more and more information is declassified. For these reasons, it is essential that Congress and the American people understand what occurred during that January 5, 2017, meeting and how it was later characterized by administration officials. The declassification of Ambassador Rice’s email, in whole, will assist these efforts," Johnson wrote.

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The 2017 meeting included former President Obama, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Biden clarifies comments comparing African American and Latino communities Kanye West may have missed deadline to get on Wisconsin ballot by minutes: report MORE and Justice Department and national security officials, including Rice. CNN reported in 2018 that administration officials were looking for guidance on any national security concerns connected to sharing information with the incoming administration. 

But the meeting has reemerged as a topic of interest among Republicans in the wake of the Justice Department's decision to drop its case against President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (R-Iowa), have questioned how closely Obama was involved in the Flynn investigation, and Republicans are hoping the Rice email will help shed new light on the probe.

In an unclassified portion of the email, Rice wrote 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,” Rice wrote.

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She also noted that Obama “asked [former FBI Director James] 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.”

Johnson’s new letter comes after acting Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell provided Johnson and Grassley with a list of dozens of Obama administration officials who they say asked for documents that led to the identity of Flynn being "unmasked" from intelligence reports between the 2016 election and Trump's inauguration.

Johnson and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) have vowed to investigate the Flynn case.