Former President Barack Obama knew that Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was being targeted with surveillance during the presidential transition soon after President Donald Trump was elected, per a now fully declassified letter former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote to herself on Jan. 20, 2017, memorializing a Jan. 5, 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, the Federalist’s Sean Davis reports.
Flynn had his Dec. 29, 2016 conversation with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak spied on, with somebody leaking it to the Washington Post on Jan. 12, 2017, and then sending the FBI to ask about it on Jan. 24, 2017 with what amounts to a perjury trap. The Justice Department has in recent weeks since motioned to dismiss all charges against Flynn, but the federal judge hearing the case is slow-walking that motion.
Now, we know, per Rice’s memo to herself that Obama knew all about it, learning about it at least on Jan. 5, a week before the fact that Flynn and Kislyak had the call was leaked to the Post.
Per Rice’s summary “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”
This was the Russian interference into the 2016 election briefing given a day before then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued the joint intelligence assessment on the same, but the version that was given to former President Barack Obama and then-President-Elect Trump on Jan. 5, 2017 also reportedly included some of the allegations leveled by former British spy Christopher Steele in his infamous dossier, paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that Trump was a Russian agent.
Now we know years later it was all wrong, thanks to none other than Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who in his 2019 report stated, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” and “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”
After the core intel briefing on Jan. 5, 2017, in the conversation between Obama, Comey, Yates, Biden 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. 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.”
Now, we knew all that already, because Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham had published the declassified portion of the letter back in 2018.
Here’s the juicy part that until now has been kept under wraps: “Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement. 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 pas sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. 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.’”
Obama could have stopped the surveillance right then and there on Jan. 5, but he didn’t. He wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t alarmed. Instead, he told Comey to keep it going in so many words: “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.”
This puts the Jan. 12 leak of the Flynn conversation in the Post and then the Jan. 24 questioning of Flynn into a whole new context, one that shows the outgoing President Obama fully aware that the incoming Trump national security team was under surveillance and suspected Russian agents, charges we now know were complete bunk.
Obamagate? You better believe it.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.