Even taken on its own terms, the Nunes memo does nothing that Trump claims. But it does show us something—with deep ramifications for the intelligence community, the Russia investigation and maybe even the presidencyby Calder Walton / February 7, 2018 / Leave a comment
Republicans on the US House Intelligence Committee have released their long-awaited memo, which, according to Fox News, contains the greatest constitutional abuse in modern times. Pundits on Fox claimed it would show there was a “Deep State” conspiracy at work, undermining the president and his supporters, and “prove” the Trump-Russia investigation is a fraud.
When the four-page memo was finally released last Friday after much fanfare, it was predictably a let-down—a “nothing burger,” to use Washington’s current vernacular. But on closer inspection, it is a nothing burger with a large amount of Russian dressing.
Far from undermining the validity of the Russia investigation into president Trump, as the White House hoped, the memo actually reveals the Russia investigation is wider, and independent, than the memo’s narrow claims. It is a spectacular own-goal for Republicans trying to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation.
The memo was driven through by the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, and declassified on the authorization of the president himself.
The Nunes memo, as it was known even before its release, attacks the “legitimacy and legality” of the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) during the 2016 presidential campaign and suggests a “troubling breakdown” of US legal order to protect abuses of spying on US citizens.
At its core, the memo alleges that the FBI and DOJ used politically-biased information in an application for an electronic interception warrant, known as a FISA warrant, on a US citizen advising the Trump campaign, Carter Page. The information in question derived from the now-infamous dossier on Trump’s connections with Russia compiled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.
The Nunes memo asserts that, when seeking the FISA warrant, the FBI and DOJ failed to disclose that the now-infamous Steele dossier was paid for by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton and was thus politically-motivated and biased. As a result of their non-disclosure to the court, runs the argument, the FISA warrant was tainted, thereby contaminating its results.
It did not take long for president Trump to go further, tweeting the next morning, Saturday, that the Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him and shows the Russia investigation is a “Witch Hunt.”
There is now a real prospect that, like some kind of tin-pot dictator, Trump will use the Nunes memo as a basis for shutting down the investigation into his election campaign.