The Nunes Memo: It’s Here — Is It “Worse Than Watergate”?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

10:30 am – Trump is expected to approved the release of the memo reports said last night, but he’s not going to have the White House release it. That will be left to the House Intel Committee. Reports say that Trump was warned last night by Chief of Staff Jon Kelly that the memo isn’t the huge thing that Trump thinks it is, but Trump is already trying to sell it today on Twitter, even before its release.

I am not sure who buys this other than the hardcore Trump supporters and Russian bots. It is disconcerting that the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES things the leadership of the FBI and Justice Department — almost all of whom are Republicans and some of whom were Trump appointees — are politically biased.  Again, Russia smiles as Trump attempts to erode faith in our institutions.

This post will be updated as the day continues.

Noon —

The memo was returned to the House 15 minutes ago, sources say.

In related news….

Fox News is up now with “exclusive excerpts”.  Of course it would be Fox.  Makes it look even more partisan.

Lots of spin…. still no actual dossier.

12:15 pm — And here it is

It is hard to see what is damning here. The memo confirms that the FISA court agreed to MULTIPLE warrants to surveil Carter Page, which they wouldn’t have done MERELY because of the dossier. The memo straight up confirms that the Trump campaign hired someone that our intelligence community believes is a Russian spy.

The memo states that the dossier was an “essential part” of the warrant application.  According to who????

As I have stated before, the funding for Steele’s research is not relevant, not does that fact mean that Steele was digging up false information.  Informants are often biased; it does not mean they lie.

Steele’s relationship with the media also doesn’t taint his research.

The memo says that the FBI fired Steele because he leaked stuff to the media.  Except he didn’t leak stuff.

Even if he did leak, this does not go to the issue of Steele’s credibility.  And it raises a contradiction: If the FBI wanted to take down candidate Trump why would it have fired Steele for successfully leaking information that was harmful to Trump?

Some things the Nunes Memo does not explain away:
1) The hack of DNC servers by 2 Russian intelligence agencies
2) George Papadopoulos’s contacts with the Russians
3) Michael Flynn’s negotiations with the Russian ambassador
4) the Trump Tower meeting
5) Firing Comey

This little nugget practically undoes the rest of the memo.

Also, with respect to the above point #4, it is incorrect that the Comey called the Steele dossier “salacious and unverified”.  This is untrue according to Comey’s testimony. Comey, in this testimony, specifically was referring to “salacious and unverified” information WITHIN the dossier, not the ENTIRE dossier.

As does this one — don’t fall for “fruit of the poisonous tree” crap

That is important… because if it was extended three times, that means FOUR judges saw the warrant package, with THREE of them seeing it AFTER the Steele dossier was public knowledge and it was known who Steele worked for, etc.

Another part of the memo: they throw in the FBI agents, Strzok and (Lisa) Page for no apparent reason.  What relation does that have to the FBI warrant?  And in the paragraph where they mention Strzok and Page, they CONFIRM that the investigation started as far back as July 2016.

The memo claims that the FISA warrant would not have been sought were it not for the dossier. However, that doesn’t mean the court granted the FISA application *because* of the dossier. Besides, the FBI was already investigating a Trump campaign official. How this discredits the investigation into Trump’s campaign, or Muller, is a mystery.

Here’s the minority (Dem) response from the House Intel Committee:

Washington, DC – Today, the Minority of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence responded to the release of HPSCI Chairman Nunes’ memo:

“Chairman Nunes’ decision, supported by House Speaker Ryan and Republican Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes. Furthermore, their refusal to allow release of a comprehensive response memorandum prepared by Committee Democrats is a transparent effort to suppress the full truth.

“As the DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes, the decision to employ an obscure and never before used House rule to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised when political winds arise, those sources of vital information will simply dry up, at great cost to our national security.

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

“In order to understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court – including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

“The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians’ interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference. This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.

“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.

“The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application. There are many more set out in the Democratic response, which we will again be seeking a vote to release publicly on Monday, February 5th. Unlike Committee Republicans, however, we will ask the relevant agencies to propose any necessary redactions to protect any sources and methods not already disclosed by Chairman Nunes’ document.

“It is telling that Chairman Nunes put out this memo without bothering to read the underlying materials, and that he ordered changes to the document without informing his own committee members. It is a terrible lapse in leadership that Speaker Ryan failed to intervene and prevent the abuse of classified materials in this way. It is tragic, if all too predictable, that this President would allow the release of the memo despite FBI and DOJ’s expressions of ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Republicans’] memo’s accuracy’. But most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe.”


Here’s something to put a smile on Putin’s face:

And now Comey weighs in

As does Trey “Benghazi” Gowdy (the only GOP person to have seen the intelligence underlying the memo)

When you can’t convince Gowdy….

One thing for certain: if the memo is supposed to be a pretext for Trump to fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, it is embarrassingly thin. Rosenstein is only mentioned twice — he signed off on one of the applications to extend the FISA warrant.

Good summary here at Vox.  Meanwhile….

4:10 pm — Dow closes down today 665 points, making this the worst week in two years.

Best response of the day? Maybe this one from Charles Pierce:

I think I may have broken the RETURN key on my laptop. I was reading The Memo a short time after its release by the Republican majority of the House Intelligence Committee. I got to the end and I realized that, even though the Christopher Steele report is The Memo’s chief bogeyman, there was nothing in The Memo that undercuts anything we know about the substance of the Steele dossier. In fact, there is nothing in The Memo that undercuts anything pertaining to the relationship between the Russians and the Trump campaign, nor is there anything that undercuts what we know about the Russian ratfcking generally. I got all the way to the last of the six pages and I couldn’t quite believe that this was what all the fighting had been about for the past couple of weeks. There had to be more. I kept hammering that poor RETURN key in vain. You let me down, Devin Nunes, you White House lawn ornament, you.

I grew up with the Watergate tapes. I grew up with the revelations of the Pike and the Church committees. (Revelations, I might add, that produced the FISA process and the congressional intelligence procedures that Nunes turned into dog food Friday.) I grew up with George Schultz’s diaries that showed that everyone in the upper reaches of the Reagan administration was involved in the crimes of Iran-Contra. I watched every second of the several inquiries into the Whitewater land deal, which is how I know what a crock that was, but at least there was some phony substance to those phony charges. This Memo, Devin, isn’t even a good try. You and your staff have to be the laziest alleged obstructors of justice that I’ve ever seen. All it appears to be is a lame-ass defense of a self-important goofball Russophile named Carter Page. That’s all you got?

This is a guy that got on the FBI radar in 2013, when the president* was still firing celebrities on his television show. The FBI found that Page had been actively cultivated by Russian intelligence as a possible asset. And now, your whole argument is that the FISA warrants were prompted by the Steele dossier and that Steele is a shtunk who was biased against the president*? For this, you needed a memo? For this, you needed a month’s worth of drama? For this, you needed to demolish the good faith between the intelligence community and the congressional committees designed to conduct oversight of that community? You couldn’t even get the date of David Corn’s breakthrough story in Mother Jones right. Hell, you could have saved us all the trouble and just done a couple of nights on Hannity to make that caseYou’d have reached every single American that currently buys what you’re peddling.

This is threadbare. This is shabby. This reveals absolutely nothing. All it does is damage. It isn’t even really good ratfcking. I mean, what the fck, Devin?

… and that’s BEFORE he gets into specifics!

Time to end this post with an oldie bout a goodie: