May 21, 2020

CNN's John Avlon does a reality check segment on the Susan Rice email released this week.

"In search of a scandal to fit the slogan 'Obamagate,' earlier this week Republican senators requested that the acting director of national intelligence declassify an email that a former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice had sent herself on Inauguration Day," he said.

"The implication is that this would be a smoking gun that unlocked the conspiracy to spy on the incoming administration. But rarely have we seen the supposed smoking gun fizzle as fast as the declassified Susan Rice email. It memorialized the Oval Office meeting which included then-Vice President Joe Biden after an intelligence briefing on Russia's interference in our election."

The issue, he said, was the then-undisclosed contacts between Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak -- which got Flynn fired for lying 24 days into the administration and led to his guilty plea before his prosecution was abandoned by Barr this month.

"Instead of wrongdoing, Rice's email said that President Obama emphasized his continued commitment to ensuring every aspect of this issue was handled by intelligence and law enforcement communities by the book," Avlon said. (Oh, oops! So much for the big scandal!)

"According to Rice, President Obama stressed that he's not asking about initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. In the portion that had previously been classified, Obama asked then-FBI Director James Comey if concerns about Flynn's contacts with the Russians meant that the National Security Council should not pass sensitive information to Flynn. Rice wrote that Comey replied 'potentially,' adding he had no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak. But he noted that the communication level is unusual.

"Yes, it is unusual to have an incoming national security advisor have repeated undisclosed contacts with an ambassador from a country that had just interfered in our elections to benefit the president-elect. As summed up, the Rice email shows the Obama team were caught red-handed following the rules. Now in a sane political world, Republican senators would have made like Emily Litella and said --

Never mind.

"But we live in the Trump era. So instead, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted, 'Wow, ongoing spying from an outgoing POTUS, on an ingoing POTUS directed by Obama himself is unprecedented ' -- nope. The email showed nothing of the sort. But the tweet showed how little facts matter in this silly season.

"Now, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell just said he's backing a new round of subpoenas against Obama administration officials. But if the truth is what he's really after, McConnell could request the Flynn-Kislyak conversations, as Rice and others have suggested -- or explain his resistance to making a bipartisan statement condemning the Russia interference before the elections, as the latest Senate Intelligence committee report shows.

"Or we could all just admit that this effort to investigate the Obama administration is an attempt to distract and deflect from the Trump administration's own self-inflicted scandals. And that's your reality check."

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