By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/5/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
House Intelligence Cahir Rep. Devin Nunes’s (R-CA) memo is a belly-flop, not a blockbuster. The entire exercise was designed to give Hannity and FOX News a piece of paper to wave around as some kind of vindication for all things Trump-Russia. It was a piece of paper, and Hannity did wave it. Beyond that it was an embarrassment … a joke. Sadly it’s not that simple.
The entire exercise was meant to undermine the investigation of Trump-Russia corruption, Trump money laundering and obstruction of justice by attacking the credibility of the FBI, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The GOP = Party Over Country
It took a team effort. Why would all levels of the GOP — always touting itself as the law-and-order party — work so deviously to protect Trump?
Yet Trump’s forceful — and empty — proclamations of vindication of Trump-Russia corruption are heard across all media reports. Not credible, but forceful, and Trump is a master of the brain-branding headline.
The bottom line – no matter how bad Nunes’s memo, Trump may still fire Rod Rosenstein as he’s been threatening to associates.
Nunes Memo: Embarrassing Fail After “Bigger than Watergate” Promise
For weeks Nunes promised his memo would provide proof positive of law enforcement partisanship in a witch-hunt against Trump. It’s hard to find the right comparisons of hype versus delivery but comparisons to P.T. Barnum and the mustachioed mermaid come to mind.
A shameless, publicity stunt with piss-poor execution. It took a real team effort. The GOP’s cast of enablers included:
- House Intelligence Committee Member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) — The author, the one with a brain according to Nunes
- FBI – Now improbably cast as a left-wing plot against America
- Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) – Former MI6 Russia desk head supposedly bent to the will of evil Democrats.
- Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page — A known associate of Russian spies since 2013.
Nunes’s memo is not his first flawed attempt to protect Trump. In March 2017 Trump had tweeted that President Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. Nunes was fed information by Ezra Cohen Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, and Michael Ellis, a White House attorney who worked for Nunes prior to the Trump administration. The incident was so embarrassing to Nunes that he was forced to recuse himself from all Trump-Russia related investigation by the House Intelligence Committee he chaired.
Regardless of Nunes’s second poor attempt at defending Trump, this Vox article addresses a key question – does this threaten the Mueller investigation? The 9 Biggest Questions About The Nunes Memo, Answered.
“According to the Washington Post, Trump his close advisers prior to the memo’s release that it could give him the ammo he needs to fire Rosenstein or force him to resign. Trump could replace Rosenstein with someone friendlier to the Trump administration and more willing to constrain Mueller. That could prove more detrimental to the Mueller probe in the long run. …
“So what’s likely to happen in the coming days is escalating conflict between House Republicans and Trump administration officials who want the president to fire Rosenstein and shut down the Russia probe, and the FBI and Democrats who oppose all of this.”
Either Trump and his enablers decide to ignore the content of the memo and act by firing key persons like Rosenstein, or a heated GOP-FBI skirmish ensues with no firings but a likely next attack.
The Kremlin’s Useful Idiot
It useful to take the time and space to focus on one of the key assertions put forward by Nunes, the “politically motivated” surveillance of Carter Page: Republicans: If Poor Carter Page Can Be Wiretapped, Who Among Us Is Safe?
The GOP makes it clear they don’t have concerns with Carter Page, but are only worried about his civil liberties. Carter Page as the innocent victim is easy to dispel, so easy, it’s laughable that Nunes would try:
“The case in the memo, as it has been laid out in the media, runs as follows: The FBI wiretapped Carter Page, a hapless Trump foreign policy adviser, on the basis of allegations compiled by British investigator Christopher Steele. When it obtained court approval for this wiretap, the FBI allegedly failed to disclose that Steele’s reporting had been financed by Democrats. Therefore, the surveillance of Page – and, as Trump and many of his allies see it, the entire Russia investigation — is illegal and tainted. Poor Carter Page is simply the canary in the coal mine of American civil liberties.
“There are several flaws with this apparent theory. First, reports have indicated the FBI began investigating Page well before Steele looked into him. Page met with Russian spies who were looking to recruit him , and passed documents to them. The Russian spies came away from the encounter confounded by his apparent stupidity (“I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am”) but by his greed (“He got hooked on Gazprom. It’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money”). reported last August that the FBI began surveilling Page in 2014, two years before the Steele dossier. In 2015 — again, before Steele came along — U.S. investigators overheard Russians discussing “meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers,” The Wall Street Journal has .”
Based upon his contacts with Russian spies as early as 2013, and his bragging about being a Kremlin adviser, Carter Page had long drawn the attention of the FBI. You can follow the “in 2013” link in the 2nd paragraph above to the BuzzFeed News article that explains this. Or go here:
[Page is described as…]”A former campaign adviser for Donald Trump met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013.”
Three Russian operatives were ultimately charged by the FBI. One was convicted and served time, while the other two fled the country. The US government transcripts referred to Page as “Male-1”, Page admits to being Male-1. The Russians referred to Page as a “useful idiot”.
So when Carter Page came back on the radar in 2016 as a foreign policy adviser to Trump, he was not new to the FBI.
Who sponsored Page as an adviser to Trump, who vetted Page, who hired Page and why?
But there should be another concern with Page: Carter Page Knew About Nunes Memo ‘months in advance’ During ‘nutty’ MSNBC Interview Last Year.
On October 30, 2017 Page appeared on MSNBC with Chris Hayes and said:
“I think when the truth comes out, when Speaker Paul Ryan says the FISA warrant or the details about the dodgy dossier and what happened and all the documents surround that is gonna be released, that’s what I’m excited about,” Page said in the October 30 interview. “I think the truth will set a lot of people free.”
Rachel Maddow underscores the question – how did Page know what Paul Ryan would do months before the release of the Nunes memo?
““Months ago, there was a plan in the works that Carter Page knew about that involved Paul Ryan that they would try to use this warrant against Carter Page to make a public case to try to turn that warrant somehow into some sort of public information that presumably would be used to turn the Russia investigation into a scandal,” she concluded.”
As bad as the Nunes memo is, there are important take-aways: Democratic Rebuttal Calls Nunes Memo ‘deliberately misleading’.
NBC reminds us of GOP complicity, they can no longer parade in the emperor’s new clothes and get away with it:
““Until now, we could only really accuse House Republicans of ignoring the President’s open attempts to block the Russia investigation. But with the release of the Nunes memo … we can only conclude that House Republicans are complicit in the effort to help the President avoid accountability for his actions and the actions of his campaign,” Nadler writes.”
Republicans are complicit and out in the open in protecting Trump – Party Over Country.
Should Trump and the GOP not end the Trump-Russia corruption investigation there is a more important cost than embarrassment with the memo – added proof of obstruction of justice: The Memo Doesn’t Vindicate Trump. It’s More Proof Of Obstruction.
“For weeks, allies of President Trump ratcheted up pressure to “release the memo.” The impact, according to supporters, would be monumental: It would shake the F.B.I. “” (Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina) or it would reveal abuses “” than what incited the American Revolution (Sebastian Gorka, a former White House official).
“But it does no such thing.
“What might be the lasting legacy of the Nunes memo is how President Trump reacted to it. According to , Mr. Trump suggested “the memo might give him the justification to fire [the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein] — something about which Trump has privately mused — or make other changes at the Justice Department, which he had complained was not sufficiently loyal to him.”
“In fact, Mr. Trump’s approval of the release of the memo and his comments that releasing it could make it easier for him to fire Mr. Rosenstein could help.”
“Robert Mueller, the special counsel, prove that Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, with a “corrupt” intent — in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice — as the law requires.”
One-man wrecking crew
And Paul Ryan is now completely out in the open, no matter what he does or does not say: A Process That Tarnishes The House; Paul Ryan Is Tarnishing The House.
“Discrediting law enforcement is the memo’s transparent purpose and why it has been embraced by President Trump. …
“, we are not in the business of opposing the release of information of potential public value. But if the Nunes memo were truly about fair congressional oversight of law enforcement, as Mr. Ryan claims, Republicans would allow the simultaneous release of a Democratic memo on the same subject. , though Mr. Ryan’s staff says the speaker supports releasing the Democratic memo after giving it more scrutiny. That leaves only unsettling possibilities for why Mr. Nunes, a longtime Trump ally, is pushing to disseminate his version as the president’s ire about the Russia investigation crests and speculation swirls about his desire to fire senior law enforcement officials, including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and . CNN Thursday that Mr. Trump believes the Nunes memo “could discredit the agency” by exposing “bias within the FBI’s top ranks.” …
“Mr. Ryan bears full responsibility for the deterioration of congressional oversight of intelligence operations. Once a bipartisan responsibility that lawmakers treated soberly — as they still do in the Senate — oversight under Mr. Nunes has become another front in Mr. Trump’s assault on the law enforcement institutions investigating the president and his associates. House Republicans are poisoning the committee’s relationship with the intelligence community and distracting from real issues demanding attention.”
The Nunes memo fizzled like a cheap firecracker in a rain storm. It is so bad it spawned a social media competition for the best ‘Yo Memo’ jokes.
Yo memo is so stupid Trump named it Eric.
YoMemo came and went so quick we can’t decide whether to rename it Stormy or Mooch.
Sadly, no matter how bad the memo, Trump, Hannity, et al have something to wave around and could use it to justify firing Rosenstein and others.
The GOP has outed itself – they are “all in” in protecting Trump from Mueller’s Trump-Russia corruption. Critics or moderates like Sen. McCain (R-AZ), or Sen. Collins (R-ME), Sen. Graham (R-SC) or even White House legal counsel Don McGahn have made noise and also gone quiet at key times. McGahn, for example, who was said to have threatened to quit if Trump fired Mueller signed the cover letter to the Nunes memo.
Paul Ryan has demonstrated where he stands and he is clearly always Party Over Country. How, one might wonder, did Page know months in advance that Ryan would make the FBI surveillance public?
Where do we end up post-memo – firings or simply more skirmishing?
If all of this is clear to you, consider this from the pages of the February 4 Washington Post:
“Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who helped draft the memo, said Trump should not fire Rosenstein and rejected the idea that the document has bearing on the investigation.
““I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” Gowdy, who also chairs the House Oversight Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) said the two are “very separate” issues.
““I think it would be a mistake for anyone to suggest the special counsel should not continue his work,” Stewart told Fox News Sunday. “This memo, frankly, has nothing at all to do with the special counsel.””