So Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to release the Nunes memo but quashed release of the Democratic memo that provides context showing that the Nunes memo is a crock. Typical. The ball has been punted to Trump, who has five days to decide whether he wants it released, or not.
Why wouldn’t he release it? Well, for one thing, according to people who know this stuff, there’s no way the FISA court would have approved an extension of the warrant on Carter Page if the original surveillance hadn’t turned up some compelling evidence. According to this very good backgrounder that I recommend, FISA warrants are good for 90 days, and if the original surveillance comes up dry, that’s it. And the backgrounder says that, given the time frame, the extension approved by Rosenstein would not have been the first, but (at least) the second extension.
It’s also the case that FISA warrants go through a stringent approval process that includes a boatload of lawyers before they are given to a judge, according to the backgrounder. Rosenstein would not have had sole discretion of approving it.
My bet is that Trump’s lawyers are going to tell him to keep the damn memo in a lead-lined box in hopes it doesn’t see the light of day.Â However, the Judiciary Committee could release it, anyway, without his approval.
Indeed, Newsweek is reporting that The Memo admits Carter Page might have been a Russian agent. If he were a Russian agent while a member of the Trump campaign, that’s kind of not helpful to Trump’s claim of no collusion between his campaign and Russia, is it? Especially during the same week Trump is refusing to implement sanctions on Russia that passed Congress by an overwhelming majority vote.
Wait, what? Oh, yes, and as usual the excuses make no sense. See Aaron Blake at WaPo:
So to recap, the head of America’s foreign intelligence agency says Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn’t â€œseen a significant decrease in their activity.â€ But then the State Department announces that it doesn’t need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent? Pompeo seems to be saying the legislation hasn’t deterred Russia from trying to meddle in U.S. elections again â€” at least not to a â€œsignificantâ€ degree.
For all of Trump’s talk about building an alliance with Russia as president, his administration has taken some tough positions. But his reluctance to sign these sanctions into law was crystal clear â€” he even called them â€œseriously flawedâ€ but signed them knowing Congress could easily override his veto â€” and his continuedÂ doubts about Russian meddlingÂ in the 2016 election can’t help but make this decision seem convenient. And his administration’s contrasting narratives on the purpose and effectiveness of these sanctions could use some explaining. Otherwise, it risks lookingÂ as if it’s just ignoring Congress’s will.
The Guardian is reporting that the FBI has another dossier created by a former journalist named Cody Shearer. Shearer worked independently from Christopher Steele but allegedly turned up a lot of the same information. However, Shearer appears to be kind of a sketchy character, so this may not be much of a help to anybody.
Marcy Wheeler speculates that the Steele Dossier itself may actually have hurt Dems and helped Trump in 2016.
Here’s more background on how Andrew McCabe was pushed into stepping down.
See also Paul Waldman, “Trump’s Slow-Motion Massacre at the Justice Department.”
And no, I’m not going to watch the SOTU. I don’t have the strength.
Update: See Josh Marshall, “The Hidden F-U in the White House Russia Sanctions Response.”
Youâ€™ve likely seen the reports that the Trump administration violated the spirit though probably not the letter of the new Russia sanctions law by simply deciding not to impose any sanctions. But the law also mandated that the administration produce a list of â€œsenior political figures and oligarchsâ€ in Russia. These individuals were not to be sanctioned themselves. But the list is meant to impose some stigma and, more importantly, serve as an implicit signal about which individuals might be sanctioned in the future.
The administration put out that list along with news it wasnâ€™t going to impose sanctions. But many noted that it seemed almost identical to a list of oligarchs published in 2017 by Forbes. The most amazing thing is that when BuzzfeedÂ asked the Treasury whether there was any truth to this, they said, candidly enough, yes. Thatâ€™s where we got it.
Marshall points out that the law actually mandated a list of known Putin cronies. What the White House released was a list of Russians with the highest net worth, which included some dissidents.