Much Ado About Very Little
Much Ado About Very Little
The Nunes Memo Isn't Oversight; It's a Smear
A few thoughts on the famous – or infamous – Nunes memo
- Is this all there is? Official Washington and the national media have been in high dudgeon for most of the last two weeks over what turns out to be a sketchy memorandum written by a congressional staffer that is long on innuendo and short on facts. As cable TV anchor Shepard Smith observed Friday afternoon – on Fox News of all places – the memo “reads like a press release.”
- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray are now all that stands in the way of the most serious challenge to our Constitution and the rule of law since the Watergate scandal. Trump clearly wants Rosenstein gone and probably regrets appointing Wray last spring. But if one or both resigns or is fired, he is sure to be replaced with a Trump lackey who will move to end special counsel Mueller’s investigation. If that happens, watch out.
- The memo asserts that people who work for the FBI have opinions about President Trump. Well who doesn’t? The canard that the memo is peddling posits that people inside the FBI, who perhaps don’t like the president and didn’t want him to win the election, somehow conspired to manufacture or distort evidence and then bamboozled four different judges on four different occasions – with new evidence each time – into issuing warrants that let them eavesdrop on one of Trump’s advisers. There’s absolutely no evidence of that.
- It’s interesting that Chair Devin Nunes, R-CA, and his GOP colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee are using a staff memo rather than convening hearings and calling witnesses to press their case that FBI leaders are out to get the president and trampled on civil liberties in their pursuit of dirt on him. Maybe they know that their “evidence” wouldn’t stand up to that kind of scrutiny. The Intelligence Committee is supposed to provide oversight for the nation’s intelligence agencies. The Nunes memo isn’t oversight, it’s a smear.
- If Trump, Nunes and the Republicans continue to suppress the release of the Intelligence Committee Democrats’ counter-memo, look for it to be leaked. The Republicans have demolished any semblance of bipartisan cooperation on the Intelligence Committee, which historically has been something of a DMZ in Capitol Hill wars. The inevitable result is more fights like the one we’ve just witnessed over the memo and a greater reluctance by the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies to share sensitive information with Republicans and Democrats alike.
- The partisan uproar over the memo surely has advanced Trump’s objective – diverting the public’s attention from the growing mound of evidence of his and his campaign’s ties to the Russian government and its effort to disrupt the 2016 election.
- “I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country,” Trump told reporters shortly after the White House announced his decision to declassify the memo. “The memo was sent to Congress. It was declassified. Congress will do whatever they’re going to do. But I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country… a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain, at home in Arizona to continue his battle against brain cancer, kept his eye on the ball on Friday. “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy…” he said. “The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”
He’s right about that. It’s a disgrace, and the man who should be most ashamed is Donald J. Trump.