People who have lived ‘by the book’ for eight years would not have to remind each other to go ‘by the book.’ It would go without saying. ~ Andrew McCarthy, National Review

Now that word has broken that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has identified and indicted 13 Russian nationals for attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, the Russian collusion investigation is starting to take shape. Their attempt to sow chaos — by apparently stealing identities that would facilitate those activities — began in 2014 according to reports, and seemed to be focused on disparaging Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, while promoting Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

This development heightens what legislators like Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, who’ve been investigating the Steele dossier and abuses in the FISA court, have been saying from the beginning: the two investigations are distinct and separate from one another. Mueller appears to finally be revealing just exactly what he’s been investigating.

The investigation into the Steele dossier remains hazier.

In a new piece at National Review, Andrew McCarthy breaks down that strange little email former National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent to herself as her last piece of official business as the Obama administration transitioned out of the White House and the Trump team transitioned in.

McCarthy asserts that Rice wasn’t attempting to take notes on a meeting that happened 2 weeks prior to ensure accuracy; she was, instead, writing the missive for posterity and for the record. In that email, Rice strangely highlights Obama’s need to remind his team — including FBI Director James Comey, CIA head John Brennan and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — that everything be done “by the book.”

But what is the everything he’s referring to? Rice is never explicit but McCarthy reminds us that a few things were happening around the time of the meeting with his IC heads and DOJ officials: 1. Sanctions had just been imposed on Russia and the Kremlin’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, had already contact the much-hated national security adviser-designate for the incoming administration, Michael Flynn. And 2. the Justice Department and FBI had gone to the FISA court not 4 months prior to request a warrant to spy on Trump associate Carter Page, a warrant we now know was obtained using an unverified dossier paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

In effect, argues McCarthy, Obama had placed members of the incoming administration under investigation and so the question is was he trying to keep some things from the new White House officials with that investigation in mind, hence the emphasis on making sure things looked like they were proceeding by the book? McCarthy says yes.

Let’s move beyond “the book.” Far more important are the last paragraphs of Rice’s email. She recounted that “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.

There follows a blacked-out paragraph, clearly redacted because it either is classified or would expose investigative information — no doubt, some of the information that “we cannot share fully.” Rice then closes with Obama’s instruction to Comey to inform Obama “if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team.”

That is what Rice’s email is really about: not sharing with the incoming Trump administration classified information about the Trump-Russia investigation, such as the basis for seeking a FISA warrant on Carter Page.

The entire piece is worth a read, and McCarthy is thorough in explaining how and why an investigation where Trump was the central character — despite his not being the actual subject of the FISA warrant — means that Comey was intentionally misleading when he told the president he was not under investigation. Because, if Rice’s email is what it looks like, he most certainly was and the Obama administration had no intention of letting him know that.

It is getting close to two years with no apparent evidence of an actionable Trump–Russia conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to ask: Is President Trump under investigation for collusion with the Kremlin? If not, shouldn’t he and the country be told that?

We found out today that Mueller may not have been investigating collusion with the Kremlin after all. Which raises the question of just exactly what Obama and company were trying to keep under wraps by keeping the incoming administration in the dark.