Former President Barack Obama was said to be uneasy after the Justice Department abruptly abandoned its criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn last week. Obama’s concern piqued Trump.
Now, Trump is working to flip the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election back on his predecessor. On Twitter, he accused Obama of the “biggest political crime in American history” — one that Trump said makes Watergate “look small time.”
With no deeper explanation of the “crime,” he retweeted comments alleging Obama’s participation in an entrapment scheme and demands to prosecute former FBI and Justice Department officials.
“Hope you had fun investigating me,” Trump posted on Instagram. “Now it’s my turn.”
What Is The ‘Crime?’
On Dec. 29, 2016, Flynn reached out to the Kremlin to smooth over foreign policy for the incoming Trump administration after Obama imposed sanctions for interference with the presidential election.
On Jan. 5, 2017, Obama’s national security team — including senior intelligence and Justice officials, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Obama himself — met to discuss, among other things, the Russia investigation and Flynn’s calls with the former Russian ambassador.
In an ensuing investigation, Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI about his Kremlin contacts, and he was fired as national security adviser for lying to Vice President Mike Pence. He later tried to rescind the plea, citing protocol violations by investigators.
That alleged misconduct, and the efforts by Obama to launch investigations in the first place, have now come into focus. Trump and his supporters have suggested the Obama team unfairly targeted Trump associates in an attempt to sabotage the incoming president.
“I don’t know who they consulted with, who they got permission from, and some of the revelations that I read including conversations with Comey and Sally Yates and others are very troubling,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, told Politico.
Under orders from Attorney General William Barr in 2019, U.S. Attorney John Durham initiated a probe of the Russia investigation origins. Trump expects to find criminal activity.
What Does The Republican Party Say?
Despite Trump’s urging, Senate Republicans on the panel investigating the source of the 2016 Russia probe suggested they would not investigate Obama in their in-house investigations.
“I’m not anticipating calling President Obama,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Politico.
Not all of Obama’s officials are off-limits though. Graham pledged to call in former FBI Director James Comey, acting Attorney General Sally Yates and other senior members as witnesses.
“I think the president’s got a real good reason to be upset with the Obama people,” Graham said.
He and Senate peers are open to questioning former staff, but not necessarily launching criminal investigations.
“That’s already being looked at, and we’ve got relevant committees up here that are taking a look at some of those issues too,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told Politico. “I always think that at the end, eventually the truth comes out, and I’m sure it will here too.”
Cornyn agreed. “I think we need to do our own independent investigation,” he told Politico. “Obviously, Mr. Durham is doing his. We’ll hear from them. But I think we have an important role to play in terms of congressional oversight.”
Still, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) even suggested that Obama and Biden should answer new questions about the Flynn prosecution.
“I’m suggesting that any details that we can get on that Jan. 5 meeting ought to be pursued,” Grassley told Politico. “But it’s pretty clear that Obama had his fingers in this. And it’s kind of like, you don’t need to know much more, but just the fact that it’s public, that this came from the highest levels of the previous administration to give Flynn all of his trouble. And the Flynn problems were part of an effort that — the Democrats actually thought that they could cut short this presidency by probably 3½ years.”
As the Associated Press pointed out, the Flynn investigation and broader Russia probe began under Obama, but continued under Trump by a special counsel named by a Trump appointee.
Marine One returns to the White House on May 5 with President Donald Trump onboard. White House photo by Tia Dufour.