by COLIN MANGAN
On Friday, Feburary 2, House Republicans released a memo containing previously classified information, claiming evidence of a conspiracy at the highest levels of the government to defame President Donald Trump. The 6-page memo is now publicly available. President Trump has been quick to endorse the memo, stating that it “totally vindicates” him and calling for the end of the investigation into Russia’s role influencing the 2016 election, or as President Trump calls it, a “Witch Hunt…an American disgrace!” It should go without saying that this “memo” is nothing more than partisan hackery, documenting the latest example of the GOP campaign trying to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department for political gain.
Ever since our entire intelligence community concluded in October 2017 that the Russian government was actively trying to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, right-wing media figures such as Sean Hannity and Alex Jones have claimed that a “deep state” is in control of the government. The “deep state”, which is similar to fictitious societies such as the Illuminati or Reptilians, is supposedly compromised of individuals in the highest levels of government who are actively opposing the Trump Administration. In recent weeks, several members our Congress have given in to this outlandish conspiracy theory. One of those Congressmen is Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Devin Nunes is a disgrace to Congress and a disgrace to this country. This is not the first time Devin Nunes has abused his position for political gain. After Donald Trump won the election, Devin Nunes served on his transition team. In March 2017, he secretly visited the White House to share classified information with Trump that supposedly implicated President Obama in wiretapping Trump Tower. In reality, Trump Tower was under a routine wiretap by the FBI, authorized by the FISA Court, as part of the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In the aftermath of this incident, Nunes recused himself from the Russia investigation and was put under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, despite calls for him to resign. But now, Nunes is back, despite his recusal, to continue his campaign against the FBI.
This memo is now publicly available, which has serious repercussions for the security of this country. This memo reveals sensitive information, such as how the FBI wiretaps suspects and the activities of one of those suspects: former Trump advisor, Carter Page. Carter Page served on the Trump campaign as a senior foreign policy advisor and has been the subject of an ongoing investigation. Now that Russia knows when exactly Page was under surveillance, he is no longer of any use to them, which could put his safety in danger.
This memo also smears FBI agents Pete Strzok and Lisa Page (of no relation to Carter Page). In July 2016, Strzok sent several strong anti-Trump texts to Page, who was also his mistress, stating that Trump had “no moral compass”. After Robert Mueller was appointed as the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Strzok and Page were assigned to his team. However, after these texts were uncovered in July 2017, Mueller removed Page and Strzok from his team. Yet, this memo attempts to make the case that Page and Strzok were actively attempting to oppose Donald Trump on the orders of their superiors, despite there being absolutely no evidence to support that claim.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing this memo does is reveal the inner workings of criminal investigations done by the FBI, specifically the role of the FISA court. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a semi-secret court that has the role of authorizing wiretaps for our intelligence agencies and our Justice Department. Judges at the FISA Court are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This memo attempts to make the case that the FISA Court used Steele’s memo in order to authorize surveillance on the Trump Team. This is also untrue. Although the FBI has used the Steele dossier for the Russia investigation, they have also used other information such as testimony provided by Trump associate George Papadopoulos and communications picked up from Carter Page’s wiretap. This memo also attempts to make the case that the FISA Court unilaterally granted permission to conduct wiretaps. This is also untrue. In actuality, the process of getting a warrant to execute a wiretap takes several weeks and must be authorized by several judges, only after the party requesting a wiretap provides a credible argument the justify the need for a wiretap.
It is important to remember that is a memo, a series of notes written by GOP lawmakers, rather than an official intelligence document. It is also important to keep in mind the role of the White House in creating this memo, as it was only released to the public after the White House edited it.
This memo cherry picks information and is an immoral, unethical, unfair, and misleading indictment our intelligence community, the FBI, our Justice Department, and our courts. What is more shameful than the release of this memo is the inaction of Republican lawmakers, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who stand by while people like Devin Nunes make their wild conspiracy theories official policy. The investigation of Russia’s role in interfering in our election as well as the possibility that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government is far from a “nothing burger”, as Donald Trump and his associates call it. On the contrary, this story is perhaps bigger than Watergate. The relentless attempts of GOP lawmakers and Donald Trump to undermine this investigation is absolutely unprecedented.
This should not be a partisan issue. As a country, we need to overcome this tribalism and get to the bottom of what Russia did to this country. Our intelligence agencies agree that Russia will be back to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections, and for the sake of democracy, we need to fight them and those who seek to degrade our democracy such as Donald Trump and Devin Nunes. Unfortunately, Trump and Nunes will continue their smear campaign. This is how guilty people act.