‘I know nothing about this.” That’s how Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, responded when asked on PBS’s NewsHour in March 2017 “whether Trump transition officials, including the President, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration?”
Now we know that denial wasn’t true. The evidence comes from her own hand. In her last minutes in government, on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, she sent herself an email to memorialize an Oval Office meeting two weeks earlier. Its attendees included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and herself. A newly declassified paragraph from that email quotes Mr. Comey talking about the monitoring of Trump adviser Michael Flynn’s conversations with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The timing of that meeting is illuminating. The day before, Jan. 4, 2017, internal FBI documents show the bureau was planning to close its investigation into Mr. Flynn’s ties to Russia because agents had found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The day after, on Jan. 6, Mr. Comey gave his now notorious briefing to President-elect Trump. He mentioned the lurid claims from the Steele dossier. But, incredibly, Mr. Comey did not tell the incoming President the concerns he had expressed the day before to President Obama about the danger of Mr. Flynn’s passing classified information to the Russians. No doubt that is because he wanted to keep from Mr. Trump that the FBI was investigating his team.
The larger truth here is now undeniable: The Obama Administration spied on the political competition, it continued that spying even after Mr. Trump was elected, and then it tried to cover up what it had done. If Mr. Trump had done anything remotely similar, folks would be calling to bring back the guillotine.
Today U.S. Attorney John Durham is overseeing a criminal investigation of the investigators, and perhaps there will be indictments. But even after separate House and Senate inquiries, a nearly two-year investigation by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and the new evidence unearthed by Justice in its reexamination of its prosecution of Mr. Flynn, the American people still lack what they most need: a full explanation of who did what and why.
Which brings us back to Ms. Rice’s running-out-the-door email. Ms. Rice now says she wrote it at the direction of White House counsel. Certainly that would make sense if the purpose was to insulate Mr. Obama, and her email says the President wanted everything done “by the book.” Which is what you write, two weeks after the event, if you want to protect your boss from future investigators.
The Administration knew President Trump would sooner or later discover that his team had been spied on. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has noted, the likeliest explanation for Ms. Rice’s memo was to have on the record a note that would “shift responsibility from President Obama to FBI Director Comey for the pursuit of the Trump-Russia probe.”
Ms. Rice now wants the Trump Administration to release the Flynn-Kislyak transcripts, which she says will vindicate the Obama team’s concerns about Mr. Flynn. By all means, let’s see those transcripts and more. We now know the Obama Administration used intelligence and law enforcement to go after the political opposition. We can also see that they are still now working overtime to keep the American people from getting to the full truth.