News & Politics

Was Obamagate a Rogue Operation of the White House?

President Barack Obama meets with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office, Feb. 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Every day we learn a little bit more that shows that the investigation of Michael Flynn was a dirty operation carried out Obama officials and loyalists. Andrew McCarthy at National Review recently noted, the FBI coordinated “very closely with the Obama White House on the investigation of Michael Flynn, while the Obama Justice Department was asleep at the switch.” One of the key details we learned about the infamous Oval Office meeting on January 5, 2017, was that after the main briefing on Russian interference in the 2016 election, by the heads of key intelligence agencies,  Obama asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey to stay behind, along with Vice President Biden and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

During this more private meeting, Barack Obama spilled that he was aware of wiretapped conversations of incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, a man he previously fired from his administration, and whom Obama had personally warned Trump not to hire.

According to declassified documents, “Yates had no idea what the president was talking about, but figured it out based on the conversation.” Yates had been kept in the dark about the targeting of Flynn by James Comey. Yates said she was “so surprised by the information she was hearing [at the meeting] that she was having a hard time processing it and listening to the conversation at the same time.” In fact, according to Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Intelligence on March 2, 2017, he “had not briefed the Department of Justice about” it at all.

Attorney General Barr acknowledged this curiosity during his recent interview with CBS News. “One thing people will see when they look at the documents is how Director Comey purposely went around the Justice Department and ignored Deputy Attorney General Yates.”

Susan Rice would, on the last day of Obama’s presidency, write herself an email, expressing her reluctance to share information with the incoming administration, and bizarrely noted that Obama wanted this investigation carried out “by the book.”

On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.

President Obama began the 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.

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.

[Long Redacted Paragraph]

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.

Declassification Date: 1/20/27

As PJM’s Tyler O’Neill noted when this email was first made public, “The timing of Rice’s letter suggests she was attempting to cover up something or to explain away inappropriate actions which were not ‘by the book.'” This theory has clearly panned out. Comey testified that the Justice Department wasn’t briefed on the Flynn surveillance. Why not?

How long was Obama aware of the coup attempt on Trump? In all likelihood, before the election. Remember those infamous text messages between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and her lover FBI agent Peter Strzok? They showed that a month before the FISA request to spy on members of Trump’s campaign was granted that Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.”  The FBI knew that the Steele dossier, which was the basis of the FISA request, was part of a Russian disinformation campaign, but used it anyway.

“If Obama was personally informed — and perhaps even involved — in the FISA request, then he certainly wasn’t acting ‘by the book,’ and Rice’s need to clear her name and Obama’s by drafting this email comes into focus,” PJM’s Tyler O’Neil mused.

Obama clearly wanted to make sure the incoming Trump administration wouldn’t find out what they’d been doing, all while leaking various allegations to give the impression that Trump and his associates were in bed with Russia—something we know they had no empirical evidence to support.

While Yates believed the Trump administration needed to be fully briefed on the investigation, Comey was not. And Comey, upon Trump’s arrival to the White House, heeded Obama’s direction and misled Trump, telling him he was not the target of an ongoing investigation.

“The question emerges not just what did the president know and when did he know it? I’m going to ask the further question. What did the president do and when did he do it?” former independent counsel Ken Starr said on The Ingraham Angle on Fox News Monday night. “And did he know that the Department of Justice was being completely circumvented by his director of the FBI, Jim Comey, in league with James Clapper. Huge questions.”

Perhaps the biggest question of them all, aside from the ones posed by Ken Starr, is whether the railroading of Flynn (and perhaps the entire coup attempt against Trump) was a rogue operation out of the White House, and not a legitimate investigation under the Department of Justice. Considering the lack of empirical evidence for Russian collusion, all the cloak and dagger surrounding the investigation, the White House meeting weeks before the inauguration, the misleading by Comey, the bogus Steele dossier… all of it seems to point to an effort that was kept to Obama’s inner circle. The Department of Justice, save for select people in the FBI, was kept out of the loop. This all seems to point the fact that the attempt to railroad Flynn, and perhaps the entire effort to spy on Trump, was a rogue operation orchestrated out of the Oval Office.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis