Yeah, Release the Bleeping Memo. Please.

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.