By John Hinderaker I POWERLINE
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images
Scott wrote this morning about the extraordinary email that National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote to herself at 12:15 on January 20, 2017, within minutes of when President Trump was inaugurated.
It must have been her last act, more or less, before she vacated the White House. So obviously the email was important to her. But why would it be important to send an email to herself (the only person copied was one of her aides)?
If you read the email, which Scott posted along with Senator Grassley’s letter to Rice, it is obvious that it is a CYA memo. But the question is, whose A is being C’d?
Most attention, so far, has focused on the first two paragraphs of the email, which describe a meeting that occurred around two weeks earlier.
The participants included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, James Comey, Sally Yates–who turns up like a bad penny whenever skulduggery is afoot–and Rice:
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”. 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.
This is pure boilerplate. It represents, obviously, the company line.
But Rice did not write her email to cover Barack Obama’s rear end. If she or anyone else had wanted to document the claim that Obama said to proceed “by the book,” the appropriate course would have been an official memo that copied others who were present and would have gone into the file. (My guess is that such a memo was written, but we haven’t seen it.)
In my opinion, the important part of the email is not the paragraph that purports to exonerate Obama, but the paragraphs that follow:
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.
The next paragraph of the email remains classified and has been redacted. The email concludes:
The President asked 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.
Why did Susan Rice send herself an email purporting to document this part of the meeting? Because she was C’ing her own A.
Rice was nervous about the fact that, at the president’s direction, she had failed to “share information fully as it relates to Russia” with President Trump’s incoming national security team. This violated longstanding American tradition.
Outgoing administrations have always cooperated in the transition to a new administration, whether of the same or the opposing party, especially on matters relating to national security.
Susan Rice is far from the brightest bulb on the tree, but she was well aware that by concealing facts ostensibly relating to national security from her counterpart in the new administration–General Michael Flynn–she was, at a minimum, violating longstanding civic norms.
If she actually lied to Flynn, she could have been accused of much worse.
So Rice wanted to be able to retrieve her email, if she found herself in a sticky situation, and tell the world that she hid relevant facts about Russia from the new administration on Barack Obama’s orders.
What were the secrets that Obama wanted to keep from the new administration?
We can easily surmise that the fact that the Steele memo was paid for by the Democratic Party; that the FBI had to some degree collaborated with Steele; that the Clinton campaign had fed some of the fake news in the dossier to Steele; and that Comey’s FBI had used Steele’s fabrications as the basis for FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign were among the facts that Obama and his minions didn’t want Michael Flynn and Donald Trump to know.
Susan Rice, we can infer, was told to keep these secrets, and if anyone ever asked why she had failed to disclose them to Michael Flynn and others on Trump’s team, or even lied to those people, she would have the defense that President Obama ordered her to do it.
There may be more to it than this. The redacted paragraph likely contains more information about what it was that Rice wasn’t supposed to tell the Trump team. One of these days, we will learn what was blacked out.
The fact that Michael Flynn was Susan Rice’s counterpart in the incoming administration may also be significant.
We know that the FBI agents who interviewed General Flynn–even Peter Strocz!–reported that they didn’t think he had lied about anything.
And yet, Obama’s DOJ and Bob Mueller’s “investigation”–basically a continuation of Obama’s corrupt Department of Justice under another, less accountable name–persecuted Flynn to the point where he finally pled guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI in order, as he says, to end the madness and the financial drain.
Why were the Democrats so determined to discredit General Flynn?
Perhaps because they wanted to pre-empt any outrage that may otherwise have followed on revelations that the Obama administration’s National Security Advisor hid important facts from her successor during the transition, and may have lied to him about those facts, in violation of all American tradition.
CYA memos are rarely a good idea. Most often, they reveal what the author was trying to conceal. I think that is the case with regard to Susan Rice’s now-infamous email to herself.
Scandal, Corruption, Lawbreaking — And So What?
By Victor Davis Hanson I National Review
What is the endgame to never-ending wrongdoing?
The FISA-gate, Clinton emails, and Uranium One scandals are sort of reaching a consensus.
Many things quite wrong and illegal were done by both Hillary Clinton and her entourage and members of the Obama agencies and administration — both the acts themselves and the cover-ups and omissions that ensued.
Remember, in the FISA-gate scandal such likely widespread criminal behavior was predicated on two premises:
1) certainty of an easy Clinton victory, after which the miscreants would be not only excused but probably rewarded for their zeal;
2) progressive hubris in which our supposedly moral betters felt it their right, indeed their duty, to use unethical and even unlawful means for the “greater good” — to achieve their self-described moral ends of stopping the crude and reactionary Trump.
The wrongdoing probably includes attempting to warp a U.S. election, Russian collusion, repeatedly misleading and lying before the FISA courts, improperly surveilling American citizens, unmasking the names of citizens swept up in unlawful surveillance and then illegally leaking them to the press, disseminating and authenticating opposition smears during a political campaign, lying under oath to Congress, obstructing ongoing investigations, using federal funds to purchase ad hominem gossip against a presidential candidate, blatant conflicts of interests, weaponizing federal investigations, trafficking in and leaking classified information . . . The list goes on and on.
The State Department is now involved. Apparently anyone who was a former Clinton smear artist can pass fantasies to a sympathetic or known political appointee at State. And if the “dossier” fits the proper narrative and shared agenda, it gains credence enough to ensure that it is passed up to senior State officials and on to the FBI. Perhaps a private citizen with a grudge against a rival should try that as well.
These scandals will grow even greater before various congressional investigations expire.
But then what?
In some sense, we are in uncharted territory — given the misadventure of appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel. His team is now replaying the role of Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby case: investigating a crime that did not exist and that even if it did was committed by someone else.
The Mueller team’s likely parachute will have little if anything to do with the Russian collusion that it originally and chiefly was appointed to investigate. Instead, it’s likely to settle for perjury and obstruction charges against peripheral Trump officials (if the cases are not thrown out by possible reliance on tainted FISA transcripts).
The indictments may gain a little traction if they are timed to be released before the midterm elections, hyped in the mainstream media, and calibrated to be tried before liberal D.C. juries.
The investigation may seek some redemption or justification if it criminalizes the secretly taped bombast of a Trump family member, catching him in some sort of perjury trap or business misdeed.
Yet Mueller’s appointment makes resolution of FISA-gate and its associated scandals more difficult to resolve. His value for the Left is not in what he will find but that his mere presence will become an argument ipso facto for never again appointing anyone like him.
After all, has the U.S. government ever had two special counsels working at cross-purposes, each investigating one of the two candidates in the prior presidential election?
Once a special counsel is appointed, can he be superseded by a really special or special-special counsel, an attorney who might have to investigate the other special counsel (who was in charge of the botched Clinton Uranium One scandal, who was appointed through a clear and constructed conflict of interest, and whose own team is largely composed of proud partisans and campaign donors, and who may have been involved in using poisoned FISA surveillance data to leverage confessions or indictments)?
It is unlikely that Rod Rosenstein will demand to see whether Mueller, after almost nine months, has actually found much evidence of collusion.
Nor is Rosenstein apt to order Mueller to cease a mostly dead-end investigation and redirect it along a freeway of Clinton-Obama-connected collusion, obstruction, and fraud. (Read the Page-Strzok text archive to see why the present weaponized bureaucratic culture in D.C. is utterly incapable of disinterested inquiry.)
Still, Democrats at some point will see that what they thought was the formerly defensible is now becoming absolutely indefensible.
Adam Schiff, after months of leaking, making grandiose false statements on cable TV, and getting punked by Russian comedians, is now a caricature. He became the sad legislative bookend to the neurotic James Comey. Schiff will probably soon be forced to pivot back to his former incarnation as a loud critic of FISA-court abuse.
Those who still persist in denying the extent of clear wrongdoing will suffer the tragicomic fate of Watergate-era Representative Charles Sandman (an authentic World War II hero) and Rabbi Baruch Korff (who as a child fled Ukrainian pogroms). The last diehard supporters of Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment, they both ended up widely discredited because of their political inability or personal unwillingness to see what was right before their eyes.
After all, professed civil libertarians, hard-hitting investigative reporters, and skeptics of nontransparent and overreaching federal agencies are now insidiously defending not the just the indefensible, but what they have claimed to have fought against their entire lives. Woodward and Bernstein in their sunset years have missed the far greater scandal and in their dotage will likely nullify what they once did in their salad days.
If the economy keeps improving, if Trump’s popularity nears 50 percent, and if polls show the midterm elections still tightening, we should see the politics of Democratic equivocation sooner rather than later.
So what would be their terms to call it all off?
I think the Democratic fallback position will be to point to the career carnage at the FBI and DOJ as punishment enough.
Director Comey was fired. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was forcibly retired. FBI lawyer Lisa Page was reassigned and demoted.
FBI general counsel James Baker resigned. Senior agent Peter Strzok was reassigned and demoted.
The former FBI director’s chief of staff, James Rybicki, resigned.
Mike Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, took retirement.
Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr was reassigned and demoted.
Justice Department’s counterintelligence head, David Laufman, resigned.
A cadre of others “unexpectedly” have left, allegedly (or conveniently) for private-sector jobs.
Such career implosions do not happen without cause.
And if that is not enough, Democrats may further tsk-tsk that if there were perhaps zealotry and excesses, they were in the distant past.
An out-of-office Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, James Clapper, John Brennan — and Barack Obama — may have stepped over the line a bit in matters of surveillance, unmasking, and leaking. But do we really wish to go back and put another administration on trial, politicizing governmental transitions?
And if that is not enough, Democrats will also shrug that the collusion mess was analogous to another Republican Benghazi hearing: lots of embarrassing smoke of “what difference does it make” admissions, but little fire in proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the main players engaged in prosecutable crimes.
And if that is still not enough, Democrats in extremis may concede that Mueller could retire with his minor scalps, and both sides then could call it quits, even-steven.
Who knows, perhaps they will say that Christopher Steele had a history with Russian oligarchs and was using his paymaster Hillary Clinton as well as being used by her?
Accepting any of these obfuscations would be a grave mistake.
Despite a nonstop media assault on Trump’s administration, Representative Devin Nunes, and the congressional investigative committees, more than 50 percent of the public already believes that the Trump campaign was illegally surveilled and smeared through the confluence of the Clinton campaign, the Obama administration, and the FBI.
Voters would only grow more cynical if some Americans were allowed to abuse constitutionally protected civil liberties, and to lie to the Congress, the FBI, and the courts, while the less connected others go to jail for much less. Without a judicial accounting, it will be impossible to clean up the hierarchies of the FBI and the DOJ.
Indeed, absent accountability and punishment, the new modus operandi would be for any lame- duck incumbent administration to use federal agencies to enhance the campaign of its own party’s nominee. It would be only logical to conclude that criminal acts used to help a successor would be forgotten or rewarded under the victor’s tenure.
What is needed?
Attorney General Sessions must find muscular, ambitious, and combative prosecutors (preferably from outside Washington, D.C., and preferably existing federal attorneys), direct them to call a Grand Jury, and begin collating information from congressional investigations to get to the bottom of what is likely one of gravest scandals in post-war American history: the effort to use the federal government to thwart the candidacy of an unpopular presidential candidate and then to smear and ruin his early tenure as president.
Only another prosecutorial investigation, one way or another, will lead to resolution, take the entire mess out of the partisan arena, and keep the anemic Mueller investigation honest — with the full knowledge that if its own investigators have violated laws or used tainted evidence or in the past obstructed justice, then they too will be held to account.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, released in October from Basic Books.