Newly declassified email shows FBI's Comey worried about Flynn's frequent talks with Russia's ambassador

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Peter Weber
·2 min read
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Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell fully declassified Tuesday a January 2017 email Susan Rice, then President Barack Obama's national security adviser, sent to herself about a brief Jan. 5 meeting about incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This is the second document related to Flynn that Grenell has declassified in the past week, as Attorney General William Barr seeks to drop the criminal case again Flynn for his lies to FBI agents about his undisclosed number of conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak's calls were monitored.

Those conversations were a focus of the Jan. 5 meeting memorialized by Rice.

Declassified Susan Rice Email

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Obama insisted "every aspect of this issue" be handled "by the book," and "stressed that he is not asking about, initiating, or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective," Rice wrote. "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."

FBI Director James Comey "affirmed that he is proceeding ‘by the book’ as it relates to law enforcement," Rice writes, but "he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak." Comey noted later that "the level of communication is unusual," Rice said, and Obama asked Comey to tell him "if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team."

A spokeswoman for Rice said "the email makes clear that the Obama administration did not change the way it briefed Michael Flynn," adding: "In the interest of transparency, Ambassador Rice again calls upon the director of national intelligence to release the unredacted transcripts of all Kislyak-Flynn calls. The American people deserve the full transcripts so they can judge for themselves Michael Flynn's conduct."

Neither of the newly declassified emails show any misconduct, but some Trump allies argue "that in warning Comey to proceed 'by the book,' Obama was implying that top law enforcement officials had done the opposite," Politico reports. "It would be smarter for the Trump team to do more heavy breathing, less actual declassifying," David Frum advised. "Reading the records only confirms that the outgoing administration was struggling to do the right thing in the face of a deeply corrupt and compromised incoming team."

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