Sen. Ron Johnson: ‘The Transition Was Really Designed to Sabotage and Really Upend the New Administration’

By Susan Jones | May 20, 2020 | 5:37am EDT
 Newly appointed National Security Advisor Susan Rice is embraced by President Barack Obama on June 5, 2013. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Newly appointed National Security Advisor Susan Rice is embraced by President Barack Obama on June 5, 2013. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - As Donald Trump was being inaugurated on January 20, 2017, President Obama’s outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice was back at the White House, writing up her notes on a White House meeting involving President Barack Obama and top administration officials that had taken place 15 days earlier.

"The first thought when I read that declassified email was why in the world was that ever classified?" Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News's Martha MacCalllum Tuesday night.

"My next thought really went to the point you were making here:  We didn't witness what America's become so famous for, a peaceful, cooperative, well-wishing transition of power. Instead, we saw corruption of that transition. The transition was really designed to sabotage and really upend the new administration. It’s shameful, is what it is.

“So this needs to be dug into further, we need to do further investigation. You know, my own committee working with others has been really focused on that whole corruption of transition process,” Johnson noted.

In Rice’s memo -- more of which has just been declassified -- Rice uses the phrase “by the book” three times, to explain how Obama wanted things to be done regarding the transition of power and the sharing of information regarding Russia -- all "by the book," Rice wrote.

She also wrote that then-FBI Director James Comey "is proceeding 'by the book' as it relates to law enforcement" (the Flynn case). But she said Comey expressed "some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak."

Rice said President Obama "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."

Here is the newly declassified portion of Rice’s memo in full:

President Obama began the conversation [at the Jan. 5, 2017 meeting with Comey and other officials] by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue [Flynn] 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.

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.

Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding “by the book” as it relates to law enforcement. From a national security perspective, Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.  President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied “potentially.” He 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.

Sen. Johnson told MacCallum, "You would expect an incoming administration to be making a lot of phone calls preparing for an enormous task. What you don't expect is the previous administration spying on them.

“You don't expect the previous administration sabotaging the incoming administration. There are so many odd things about that email, that it was written 15 days later. She said she just didn't have time. It sounds like somebody in the White House Counsel's office came to her and asked her to write that email, that side.

“So again, there’s an awful lot of questions we need to answer.”

Johnson said President Obama had reasons to dislike Flynn:

"But remember, Michael Flynn is an American patriot. He headed the Defense Intelligence Agency. He worked for President Obama.Now, President Obama  did not like him because when he retired, he started criticizing the administration conducting foreign policy through willful ignorance.

"Apparently, he supported somebody who lodged a sexual harassment complaint against Andrew McCabe, so there's reasons people didn't like Michael Flynn.

"But I think it's far, far larger than that, so we need to take a look at, you know, who else was unmasked, who else potentially was the Obama administration spying on, what else did they do to corrupt that transition process?”

Susan Rice responded to the declassification of her email Tuesday evening, by calling on Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell to release the unredacted transcripts of Michael Flynn's calls with the Russian ambassador so the American people can judge Flynn's conduct for themselves.

Sen.  Johnson said, "I'm for full transparency."

He also said the FBI should have informed Trump if they had any concerns about Flynn. "Again, it begs the question, what were they up to?" Johnson asked.

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