In a letter released Friday, a lawyer for Susan Rice attempted to explain why the former national security adviser sent herself an email on her last day in office documenting certain details of a previous meeting with President Barack Obama and his top national security advisers.
Attorney Kathryn H. Ruemmler explained that Rice sent herself an email about the Obama administration sharing intelligence with the incoming Trump administration in her efforts to create a “permanent record” of the discussion.
Ruemmler, of Latham & Watkins LLP, wrote:
Given the importance and sensitivity of the subject matter, and upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office, Ambassador Rice created a permanent record of the discussion. Ambassador Rice memorialized the discussion on January 20, because that was the first opportunity she had to do so, given the particularly intense responsibilities of the National Security Advisor during the remaining days of the Administration and transition.
Politico reported that the letter was sent in response to a list of questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), after they discovered that Rice had sent herself the email in question on January 20, 2017 at 12:15 p.m. — just as she was leaving office.
In the message, she recalled that on January 5, 2017, intelligence community leadership had briefed President Obama on Russian hacking during the 2016 electio. After the briefing, she wrote that Obama had a “brief follow-on conversation” with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office, where she and Vice President Biden were present.
Rice went on to state that the president started this 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,” she 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. 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.”
Rice’s lawyer sidestepped questions as to when she learned of the Russian dossier and when she knew it was funded by the Clinton administration and the DNC.
Ruemmler also wrote, “Ambassador Rice was not informed of any FISA applications sought by the FBI in its investigation, and she only learned of them from press reports after leaving office.”