Imagine if it had become known that Trump--or any Republican president you care to name--had said in similar circumstances:
Make sure you look at things, have the right people on it.
The collective howl from the Establishment media would have been heard around the globe. We would have had a mob descend upon the White House, probably including multiple GOP senators.
It seems clear to me that at this stage in the transition the Obama administration still had hopes of preventing Trump's inauguration. The lengths to which they were willing to go in that effort are revealed by Strzok's notes. It's worth taking another look at Susan Rice's email-to-self in light of these new revelations.
The Rice email has always been suspicious. For starters, the email was patently an exercise in ass covering: the "by the book" admonition attributed to Obama is really the main point of the email. This becomes apparent when we recollect several facts:
1. The email supposedly recording discussion at the meeting was not done in the regular course of business. The Oval Office meeting took place on 1/5/17, but Rice's email wasn't written until two weeks later--on the very day of Trump's inauguration, 1/20/17. Literally just before Rice ran out the door of the WH. Compare that timing with FBI rules regarding 302s: that they must be completed within five days of an interview to show that the 302 is a truly contemporaneous recollection and, therefore, trustworthy. The timing of Rice's literary exercise suggests strongly that, had Trump's inauguration been prevented, no such email would ever have been written.
2. Confirmation for that line of reasoning comes from the format used--an email-to-self, rather than a memo to some appropriate file. An email-to-self is NOT the way a high level meeting of supposedly extraordinary sensitivity is handled in the regular course of business.
3. Therefore, what occasioned this decidedly irregular exercise in ass covering? As we've recently learned, Rice wrote her email-to-self at the direction of WH Counsel Neil Eggleston. That's extraordinary. The last day of the previous administration, the first day of the incoming administration, and the outgoing WH counsel is directing the outgoing NSA to write an email explaining a meeting that took place two weeks previously, specifying that the then president had instructed the then FBI Director to take highly irregular actions but to do it "by the book." That sounds like Eggleston--who is recorded as having been at the meeting--came to learn of what had transpired, was alarmed at the implications and the possible outcome, and took action to cover Obama's ass. One suspects--strongly--that in directing Rice to write the email Eggleston also suggested the wording that was needed to deflect legal responsibility--from Obama to Jim Comey. In effect, Eggleston would have told Rice, make sure that you say that Obama wanted everything done on the up and up--"by the book." Any illegalities went against Obama's express instructions and were somebody else's responsibility. Whose? Comey's!
4. Interestingly, neither Strzok's notes--reflecting Comey's recollection--nor Sally Yates interviews reflect that supposed "by the book" admonition from Obama. Conceivably that could be oversight, but the lack of mention is certainly suggestive. Does Comey have his own notes on the meeting? To my way of thinking, Rice's email puts Comey and Yates on the hot spot, and it would be very much in their interest to dispute Rice's account, to say that they believed they were following Obama's express instructions and had no notion that all responsibility had been shifted to them. The highly irregular circumstances surrounding the Rice email would lend credence to denials by Comey and Yates. In other words, it should be very much in the interest of Comey and Yates to shift the blame--or at least to share the blame--for any criminal actions to Rice and Eggleston and ... Obama.
This could get very interesting going forward, and these dynamics go a long way to explaining the methodical way in which Barr and Durham are proceeding--as well as the palpable desperation and even panic on the Dem side.
In light of the above, I'll paste in an earlier post--Susan Rice: The WH Counsel Told Me To Write It:
So Senator Ron Johnson's earlier speculation in the course of a Fox News interview turned out to be well informed speculation. Johnson stated that the Susan Rice email-to-self read like something she was told to write by--Johnson suggested--the White Counsel. That is confirmed by Gillian Turner, citing Rice's "team":
@AmbassadorRice’s team confirms to #FoxNews that she was directed by White House Counsel to write the Jan 20, 2017 memorandum documenting an Oval Office meeting in which President Obama & National Security officials discussed #MichaelFlynn.
12:08 PM · May 20, 2020
The White House Counsel at that point would have been long time Clintonista Neil Eggleston.
Remember the FBI's Flynn FD-302? It took weeks to write and turned out to be a team effort. Maybe the Rice email-to-self was like that. We know it took weeks to write, and now Senator Johnson's suggestion that it was a team effort may turn out to be right on the money. And after all, if you wanted to CYA, wouldn't you prefer to have a legal operative like Eggleston do it rather than a Susan Rice?
No doubt John Durham will want to discuss this with Eggleston. In front of a Grand Jury.
UPDATE 1: shipwreckedcrew has an article at RedState that parses the Rice email-to-self--and related correspondence--in excruciating detail. Based on that parsing he poses the question: Has Susan Rice Made Herself a “Target” for Durham Probe With Langauge in Her CYA Memo? His answer is: Yes.
Shipwreckedcrew argues that the email actually represents Obama's own self serving version of his meeting with Comey and Yates. He concludes, based on that understanding (which I agree with):
Andy McCarthy has posited — convincingly in my view — that the true purpose of the Memorandum written by Rice was to allow Pres. Obama to point the finger of blame at Comey for whatever might happen in the aftermath of the transition into power of the Trump Administration. According to Rice’s Memorandum, Pres. Obama told Comey to do everything “by the book”, and if Comey did not do so then Comey — and only Comey — was to blame.
Did Rice put herself present in the room just so she could avoid setting forth in the Memorandum that the details she memorialized had come from Pres. Obama? Was she playing the “loyal soldier” by creating the impression that Obama’s version of the conversation had at least one supporting witness — herself — rather than have it as a “He said, He said” between Pres. Obama and Jim Comey at some future point in time?
Whichever answer is true, neither is a defense to the crime of violating Section 1001.
UPDATE 2: Brett Tolman nails it: