The following is an excerpt from Lee Smith’s book out October 29, “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History.”
AFTER DONALD TRUMP was elected forty-fifth president of the United States, the operation designed to undermine his campaign transformed. It became an instrument to bring down the commander in chief. The coup started almost immediately after the polls closed.
Hillary Clinton’s communications team decided within twenty-four hours of her concession speech to message that the election was illegitimate, that Russia had interfered to help Trump.
Obama was working against Trump until the hour he left office. His national security advisor, Susan Rice, commemorated it with an email to herself on January 20, moments before Trump’s inauguration. She wrote to memorialize a meeting in the White House two weeks before.
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. . . .
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.
The repetition of “by the book” gave away the game—for there was nothing normal about any of it.
Rice wrote an email to herself. It commemorated a conversation from two weeks before. The conversation was about the FBI’s investigation of the man who was about to move into the White House—an investigation from which Obama was careful to distance himself. During the conversation, the outgoing president instructed his top aides to collect information (“ascertain”) regarding the incoming administration’s relationship with Russia.
“To any rational person,” says Nunes, “it looks like they were scheming to produce a get-out-of-jail-free card—for the president and anyone else in the White House. They were playing Monopoly while the others were playing with fire. Now the Obama White House was in the clear—sure, they had no idea what Comey and Brennan and McCabe and Strzok and the rest were up to.”
Boxing Trump in on Russia
Meanwhile, Obama added his voice to the Trump-Russia echo chamber as news stories alleging Trump’s illicit relationship with the Kremlin multiplied in the transition period. He said he hoped “that the president-elect also is willing to stand up to Russia.”
The outgoing president was in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss everything from NATO to Vladimir Putin. Obama said that he’d “delivered a clear and forceful message” to the Russian president about “meddling with elections . . . and we will respond appropriately if and when we see this happening.”