The Corner

White House

Ask Obama

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wis., October 26, 2018. (Sara Stathas/Reuters)
What Was Obama's Role?

In the wake of the Mueller report’s completion, Barack Obama continues to stand aloof — a god king exempt from the trifling concerns of mortals.

The mainstream media remain invincibly incurious regarding the former president’s role in the Russia affair. Presumably, underlings in Obama’s national-security apparatus were running about obtaining FISA warrants, leaking, unmasking, and spying on a presidential campaign and transition without the former president’s involvement, let alone direction. He remained oblivious despite Lisa Page’s September 2, 2016 text to Peter Strzok that “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” Everything? There was a heckuva lot going on.

You’d think that there might be one or two questions for the man who’d assembled one of the most incompetent national-security teams in history. Congressional Democrats maintain that there were Russians behind nearly every tree and shrub in Washington during the 2016 election cycle, yet those charged with protecting the U.S. and its election system against such foreign interference — DNI James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe — seem  primarily to have been disturbed about such interference after Trump won. Interestingly, news reports indicate that when the National Security Council’s cybersecurity experts were poised to respond to Russian election meddling, Rice told them to “stand down.” Attorney General Lynch didn’t even give Trump a standard defensive briefing about Russian attempts to infiltrate his campaign. Their nonfeasance and malfeasance are of little concern to the press. Rather, the press seeks out their wise commentary.

The press spent two-and-a-half years obsessed with everything pertaining to the Trump campaign and Russia but precious little time, if any, unpacking the implications of Rice’s email to herself about the January 5, 2017 meeting  concerning the Russia investigation among Obama, Rice, Comey, Vice President Joe Biden, and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Rice sent the email on her government computer at 12:15 p.m. January 20, 2017 — minutes after Trump was inaugurated. It  read, “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.”

The press behaves as if the upper reaches of the federal government were on automatic pilot during the 2016 election cycle; as if Obama’s underlings had free reign over the place and he was a mere bystander.

What did President Obama know and when did he know it? What did he do and when did he do it? Will somebody in the press, at long last, ask him?

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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