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Susan Rice Email Debunks the “Obamagate” Conspiracy Theory

But of course Trump World is pretending otherwise.
May 20, 2020
Susan Rice Email Debunks the “Obamagate” Conspiracy Theory
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice (R) answers reporters' questions during a press briefing at the White House February 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Well, I guess we can close the file on that one.

Yesterday the Keystone Spooks leading the Trump intelligence regime fully declassified the “mysterious” Susan Rice email that was at the heart of their absurd conspiracy to charge former president Obama and Vice President Biden with espionage. The email had been written by Rice to herself to memorialize a meeting with President Obama’s national security team about Gen. Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Trump Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell had previously released a redacted email that left dangling the possibility that President Obama might have directed national security officials to refrain from sharing classified information pertaining to the Russia investigation with Flynn.

This was a dodgy supposition since (a) the partially redacted email included two references to Obama telling officials that the investigation should be undertaken “by the book” and (b) Flynn was a Turkish asset who took undisclosed cash payments from RT, and was having back-channel conversations with the country that had just executed a cyberattack on our elections. It’s not entirely clear that withholding information from him about said country would’ve been inappropriate even if it did happen.

But even that turns out to be an academic question, because we now know that it didn’t happen.

Of course, we just found this out. Acting director Grennell has known the whole time.

Just interesting.

The full email was declassified on Tuesday and you will be shocked to learn that the previously redacted text completely debunks the nontroversy narrative that Grenell, the MAGA media, and the Trump campaign were trying to drive with their initial leak.

Lets go to the text. Here are the newly revealed last three sentences:

[Comey] 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.’ 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.

So . . . the note that had been used to advance the idea that Obama was hiding info from—and even spying on!—Flynn has a line in it that indicates specifically that the president did not want to change how his administration shared classified information with the incoming administration unless something were to change, at which point he would want another briefing. And there is no evidence that another such briefing took place.

In summary here is what we know about Obama’s actions:

  1. He had a meeting with his intelligence team where he was briefed about Gen. Flynn’s back-channel conversations with a country that had committed an attack on our elections during his watch.
  2. At the meeting he is told that some of Flynn’s conversations with Russia are unusual, but none of them include the sharing of any classified intelligence.
  3. Obama says that the investigation should be done “by the book” unless new information comes to light at which point he should be briefed again.
  4. President Obama privately warns President-elect Trump about Flynn in one of their only conversations.

What we have here my friends is By-The-Book-Gate!

Only the producers of The Trump Show could come up with a fake conspiracy this morbidly thin. The Rice email is such a massive nothing burger that it exists as a nothing burger continent on which all other nothing burgers rest.

And yet . . . that isn’t stopping the shills.

The same people who tried to help the administration fabricate this scandal in the first place remain undaunted by the fact that the email release debunks their own conspiracy theory. Instead, they’re steaming full speed ahead as if nothing had happened. For instance, the Federalist summarizes the email as proof that Flynn was “personally targeted” in the meeting. That’s a tough case to make, since the email shows the opposite. So the Federalist piece references neither Obama requesting the investigation be done “by the book” nor the sentence where Obama specifically suggests that nothing should change unless he is briefed again.

Ted Cruz took the Federalist article and ran with it, tweeting that the leak proves that there was “ongoing spying” of the incoming POTUS directed by President Obama. Even though there is no discussion of spying in the email. Or even in the Federalist article.

It’s like a game of Infowars telephone.

A twitter troll helpfully translated for me what Cruz was probably alleging here: It turns out some people are under the impression that intelligence officials listening to a call with a Russian agent is “spying.” You know whose calls to Russian agents are spied on, particularly in the weeks following an attack on our elections? Everyone’s! It doesn’t matter your politics, race, or creed. Surely you would imagine someone who used to be . . . checks notes . . . director of the Defense Intelligence Agency for Barack Obama would be aware that these calls may be monitored!

Meanwhile Lyin’ Ted is trying to stay on his bully’s good side by pretending that this SOP email is akin to Obama planting bugs in Flynn’s shoe like he’s Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. It’s complete bullshit and Ted knows it. But this way he gets a presidential pat on the head, and Trump can use him to advance the perverse lie he is fabricating to try to rectify his flagging political fortunes.

So what we have here is further confirmation that there is a real scandal related to #Obamagate and the scandal is the Trump administration trying to weaponize America’s foreign policy and intelligence agencies to gain advantage in a presidential election…again.

The only encouraging bit is the realization that if By-The-Book Gate is the best these gubers have got, then it turns out that they’re as incompetent as they are corrupt.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.