Yeah, Release the Bleeping Memo. Please.

Nunes Memo, Trump Maladministration

You may have heard about the #ReleaseTheMemo movement on the Right. Jane Coaston has written a backgrounder for Vox that explains the whole thing. The memo in question was written by Devin Nunes and his staff based on classified information shown only to Nunes (and his staff?). The memo has also been promoted by Devin Nunes as the proof that there is a sinister cabal in the Justice Department deliberately trying to undermine the Trump Administration.

For background on why nothing Nunes says deserves to be taken seriously, see  “Why Does Devin Nunes Still Have a Job?” by Joan Walsh. See also Burr: Nunes ‘created’ unmasking allegations against Rice by Max Greenwood at The Hill.

On the Right, The Memo has taken on mythic proportions; it’s like the Holy Grail of evidence of all the plots and knavish tricks of the evil liberal elite. But as with the phony Susan Rice “unmasking” scandal Nunes promoted last year, the mystique surrounding The Memo exploits widespread ignorance of how the FISA program actually works.

According to the New York Times, the memo alleges that a FISA warrant was issued targeting Carter Page, a Trump campaign consultant, based on the infamous Steele Dossier that was commissioned by the Clinton campaign, which makes the warrant evidence of anti-Trump conspiracy. Never mind that the allegation that the Steele Dossier was the sole instigator of the investigation into the Trump campaign has been thoroughly discredited.

Nunes is not releasing the memo because it contains classified information. But, of course, not releasing the memo works better for Nunes than releasing it. As long as its contents are a mystery, people can project all manner of plots into it. Once it’s released, once it’s a concrete thing, it loses its power. And it can be debunked. As a propaganda tool, however, The Unreleased Memo is brilliant.

Michael McGough wrote in the Los Angeles Times,

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) says the memo contains “some of the most alarming things I’ve ever read, and every single American citizen should be able to read that material as soon as possible.” “Jaw-dropping!” pronounced Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on his radio show that it appears the memo reveals corruption that’s “breathtaking in scope.”

Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, not surprisingly, don’t find the document that big a deal. In a joint statement, they denounced it as a “misleading set of talking points” and questioned Republicans’ call for public release of the document. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the ranking member, announced that Democrats had drafted their own memo, “setting out the relevant facts and exposing the misleading character of the Republicans’ document so that members of the House are not left with an erroneous impression of the dedicated professionals at the FBI and the DOJ.”

Saying that it appeared Republicans were seeking to make their “spin memo” public, Schiff added: “We would strongly urge against this course, but would have to insist that our memorandum be likewise made public so that the entire nation is not then misled.”

On Wednesday, the Justice Department asked Nunes, reasonably, for an opportunity to review the memo before it was released publicly. The Democrats’ memo should be subjected to the same screening. If redactions are necessary in either document to protect sources and methods or the integrity of a criminal investigation, they should be made.

With that proviso, #ReleaseTheMemos — both of them.

That works for me.  Note that Rep. Peter King says Nunes won’t let the DoJ review the memo, however. See also Why an Unreleased 4-Page Memo From Devin Nunes Is Causing a Frenzy on the Right by Cristian Farias at New York magazine.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jan 25, 2018 @4:12 pm

    This is a really bad situation. I'd like the memo released, but I'd also like to see some objective discussion of it, and we won't get that.

    Unmasking is a flat out *requirement* for intelligence. This has been explained a lot of times. "Oooh, the Trump campaign would pay *big bucks* for that!" is meaningless coming from a person not in the campaign, and super important coming from Kushner or Junior.

    (Yes, I invented an example that's trivially obvious. There will be less obvious examples. Nevertheless, *who* said something changes things. A doctor who talks about "heart failure" is probably talking about, you know, *heart failure*. An intel operative might well be discussing official assassination. (NB: it's an old joke: in the end, you can describe *any* cause of death as "heart failure".)) 

    The problem is, the Republicans are in so deep that they will knowingly lie and say that it's terrible, just as they seized on "life insurance" and swore it was meaningful. Soon we're at "shape of the earth: views differ."

    One of the worst parts is, this one, single, solitary lie isn't a big, big deal. But the cumulative effect, that there will always be plenty of people who will spread any one, single, solitary not-a-big-big-deal lie, is devastating. Spread the blame far enough, and no one feels responsible.

  2. Bonnie  •  Jan 25, 2018 @5:01 pm

    God forbid that this would ever happen; but, what if one of these Republicans who are working so hard to destroy the FBI because it follows the rule of law instead of partisan politics was to have one of his children kidnapped.  Who would they call under those circumstances and would this Republican want the best of the kidnapping specialists to help find his child.  But, why would the FBI even want to help?  Because it is their job and they would do it without giving any thought to partisan politics.

  3. elkern  •  Jan 26, 2018 @11:19 am

    Bonnie, your expectation that the FBI (always?) "follows the rule of law instead of partisan politics" leads me to think you're (much?) younger than I am.  When I woke up to politics (~1970), the J. Edgar Hoover had been the Director of the FBI for 46 years (counting 9 years as Director of it's precursor agency).  The agency was not exactly "partisan", but it was clearly political and specifically conservative (recall that through most of that time, the social conservatives of the Old South were all Democrats).  The files on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr are among the more serious examples of this; the files on "Louie Louie" are more amusing, but perhaps an even better example of institutional pathology.  Hoover kept personal files on all prominent national politicians, and few were willing to risk crossing him. 

    Yes, the Bureau has evolved since his death in 1972, but slowly.  I suspect that the GOP views the FBI as a fiefdom, an agency  which "should" be run by Republicans.  And Democrats have often accommodated this – IIRC, both Clinton & Obama kept FBI Directors appointed by their GOP predecessors? 

    So I view the current kerfluffel as more than just a rear-guard action defending Trump.  I think the GOP is looking to purge the FBI of Democrats and non-conservatives and turn it into a patronage haven for Good Ol' Boys who will enforce the Rule of Law the "right" way.

     

  4. Bonnie  •  Jan 26, 2018 @5:21 pm

    I am very old–72.  However, I worked for the Federal Government for 37 years.  24 years I spent in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.  I knew three FBI agents who were very good friends and did there jobs very well.  I was a low grade Fed, who was very active in my local union.  While my FBI friends were much higher grades and very Republican–not the insane Republicans of today, they were good people and I believe an average representative of the FBI.  Of course, the time period is well after J. Edgar Hoover.  In fact, some of the time was during Robert Mueller's tenure, who was very highly regarded by most every one in Washington.  I have the utmost faith in the Mueller investigation; I just wish it wouldn't take so long.  I was 27 when the Watergate burglars were caught.  It took two years before Nixon resigned.  The president* and the Republicans are targeting good, hard-working Federal Government employees because they are guilty as sin.