Andrew C. McCarthy – The Rice email outlines Obama’s strategy to withhold key details of the Russia investigation. On her way out the White House door and out of her job as national-security adviser, Susan Rice writes an email-to-self. Except it’s not really an email-to-self. It is quite consciously an email for the record.
Her term having ended 15 minutes before, Rice was technically back in private life, where private people have private email accounts — even notepads if they want to scratch out a reminder the old-fashioned way. Yet, for at least a few more minutes, Rice still had access to her government email account. She could still generate an official record. That’s what she wanted her brief email to be: the dispositive memorialization of a meeting she was worried about — a meeting that had happened over two weeks earlier, at which, of course, President Obama insisted that everything be done “by the book.”
Funny, though: The “by the book” thing about contemporaneous memos is that they are, well, contemporaneous — made at or immediately after the event they undertake to memorialize. They’re written while things are as fresh as they will ever be in one’s mind, before subsequent events motivate the writer to spin a decision, rather than faithfully record it.
An email written on January 21 to record decisions made on January 5 is not written to memorialize what was decided. It is written to revise the memory of what was decided in order to rationalize what was then done.
The Trump–Russia Investigation as of January 5
January 5 was the day President Obama was presented with the ballyhooed report he had ordered to be rushed to completion by multiple intelligence agencies before his administration ended, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” The briefing that day was conducted by four intelligence-community leaders: James Comey, Michael Rogers, John Brennan, and James Clapper, directors respectively of the FBI, NSA, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Just as significant: January 5 was the day before these same intelligence-community leaders would brief President-elect Trump on the same report.
Also on hand at the January 5 White House briefing were Vice President Joe Biden and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. According to Rice, immediately after the briefing, President Obama had his two top law-enforcement officials, Yates and Comey, linger for “a brief follow-on conversation” with the administration’s political leadership: Obama, Biden, and Rice.
Let’s think about what was going on at that moment. It had been just a few days since Obama imposed sanctions on Russia. In that connection, the Kremlin’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, had contacted Trump’s designated national-security adviser, Michael Flynn. Obama-administration leadership despised Flynn, who (a) had been fired by Obama from his post as Defense Intelligence Agency chief; (b) had become a key Trump supporter and an intense critic of Obama’s foreign and national-security policy; and (c) was regarded by Yates and Comey as a possible criminal suspect — on the wayward theories that Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak could smack of a corrupt quid pro quo deal to drop the sanctions and might violate the never-invoked, constitutionally dubious Logan Act.
What else was happening?
SF Source National Review Feb 2018