Watch out America. We are in the middle of what looks like an effort to make the FBI the president’s personal police force.
Item One: There are reports today that President Trump, having fired former FBI chief James Comey after Comey rebuffed his request for a pledge of loyalty, has made a similar request of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller and the bureau’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Mueller and Rosenstein are Republicans with strong backgrounds as criminal investigators. Their loyalty should be to the law, not to any individual.
Item Two: Sometime on Friday, if not sooner, Trump apparently will release a four-page memorandum drafted by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. By all accounts, the memo alleges that the FBI and the Justice Department are biased against the president and determined to bring him down for crimes he did not commit.
If Nunes really has evidence of misconduct by the FBI, he could convene hearings and bring witnesses before the Intelligence Committee – in private if necessary to protect classified information – and get to the bottom of it. That’s the way congressional oversight of the executive branch is supposed to work; it’s instructive that neither Nunes or any of his allies on the committee have moved in that direction.
Instead, we have the public release of a critical and at four pages almost certainly sketchy memo, with no public access to the intelligence reports it is based on, and a decision by the committee’s Republican majority to suppress a counter memo assembled by Democrats.
Item three: Having finally seen the Nunes memo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee after the Comey firing, made an extraordinarily public appeal to the president on Wednesday to keep it private. An FBI press release asserted that "we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."
The only reasonable conclusion is that Nunes is operating as the president’s agent in a White House campaign to shut down the Mueller investigation and discredit the FBI. CNN reports today that the president has told associates he wants the memo out because it would “make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced.”
Nunes and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has become his enabler, want Americans to hear only their side of this argument. While their Senate counterparts press ahead with a mostly-bipartisan inquiry into Russia’s cyberattacks on our democracy, House Republicans are now all in with the president.
If the Nunes memo is as advertised, look for Wray and/or Rosenstein to be fired by Trump or perhaps to resign in protest over the memo’s release. That would clear the way for Trump to find a new FBI director and a deputy attorney general to fire Mueller and shut down the Russia investigation.
And that would be the realization of Vladimir Putin’s wildest dreams.
Office: Common Cause National