First, he said he knew nothing of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server until it was in the news. Then, it was revealed he emailed her regularly at her private, unauthorized address. He even used a pseudonym.
Now, it’s being reported former President Barack Obama requested detailed updates during the 2016 election on everything related to the FBI’s probe of Clinton’s private server. This would mean the president requested the information only months after he said, “I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations.”
It's not as bad as it looks.
FBI agent Peter Strzok texted his mistress, bureau attorney Lisa Page, on Sept. 2, 2016, notifying her that Obama "wants to know everything we're doing" in relation to the Clinton investigation, according to a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report, titled "The Clinton Email Scandal and the FBI's Investigation of it."
The text between the two agents, both of whom would go on to work briefly on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, came as then-FBI Director James Comey prepared Clinton investigation talking points for Obama.
Strzok’s September text seems like a clear contradiction to the president’s assertion that he doesn’t talk about pending investigations with FBI chiefs, but let's look at what was said.
"I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line and always have maintained it. I guarantee it,” Obama said in an April 2016 interview on Fox News Sunday.
He added, "I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case but in any case."
Though the president’s reported September request appears to be at odds with what he told Fox, a careful parsing of his words finds he has wiggle room in his use of the word “pending.” The president said he doesn’t discuss pending investigations. Investigations that have already been closed, as Clinton’s was by the time Strzok texted Page, are a different story.
Obama can claim with a straight face that, as a rule, he didn’t discuss ongoing investigations with the FBI. Does any of this seem honest, especially in light of Obama’s later request for detailed information? That depends on your political persuasion, but the simple truth is Strzok’s September text neither disputes nor disproves what Obama told Fox.
What this text does seem to confuse, however, is the Obama team’s oft-repeated claim that they moved slowly on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election because they didn’t want to do anything that could influence its outcome.
So, as noted this morning by National Journal’s Joshua Kraushaar, we’re to believe the Obama team slow-walked its response to the Russia scandal out of respect for the U.S. election, but they wanted immediate, detailed updates during the election on the FBI’s probe of the Democratic nominee?
Good luck figuring that one out.