All the hype, the drama, the wringing hands (including ours) and this was all we got?
The infamous (and infamously inaccurate) memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes’ staff was unveiled Friday with the blessings of Donald Trump and over the objections of the FBI and Department of Justice. And it was a doozey … of a letdown.
It’s a cheesy “nothingburger” (to borrow a phrase from Team Trump) slathered in innuendo and topped with a whiff of hoax. Our sister newspaper, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, noted the memo had been billed as the “Four Pages of the Apocalypse.” Instead, it was the same old stuff we’ve been hearing from half-baked talk-radio conspiracy mongers and President Donald Trump’s various cheering sections.
The memo insists the FBI got a secret surveillance warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page based on information from a source who was paid by Democrats and who didn’t like Donald Trump. Many warrants are obtained on tips from informants who don’t like the warrants’ targets. The memo didn’t even dispute what’s in the dossier.
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee echo the FBI in saying the memo contains inaccuracies, but their rebuttal was suppressed by Republicans.
The real purpose of this memo is clear – to smear Robert Mueller as his team looks into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia’s spy network. Trump is playing along, tweeting: “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that.”
Let the shame start with Trump.
His giddy reaction makes him appear frightened, even desperate, over what the FBI might find (or has found) as it looks into his family’s campaign, personal and banking ties to Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.
And the Russians are still at it. The campaign to “#releasethememo” was stoked by hundreds of thousands of Twitter messages from Russian-controlled Twitter-bots. If you believe the memo is important, perhaps you’ve fallen for Russian propaganda. Meanwhile, Trump refuses to carry out sanctions against Russia that Congress demanded.
Trump was hoping public outrage over the memo would push that story aside and give him cover to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to whom Mueller reports. That would allow the President to appoint a replacement more amenable to curtailing the investigation. When asked Friday if he was going to fire Rosenstein, Trump responded: “You figure that one out.”
But reaction to the memo is not going according to the Trump/Nunes plan as Republicans went on national TV Sunday to insist the probe continue.
Sen. John McCain, the conscience of the Republican Party, tweeted: “The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s.”
Releasing the memo, said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, is “undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin …”
Trey Gowdy, a former South Carolina prosecutor who served on Trump’s transition team, tweeted Friday “the contents of this memo do not – in any way – discredit (Mueller’s) investigation.” Sunday, he expanded: “There's going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”
Instead of outrage over the memo, many are outraged over what appear to be the memo’s true goal – to make some Americans less confident in the integrity of their top law enforcement agencies.
This entire episode was almost comical in its buildup. But don’t let any “disappointment” obscure the memo’s real importance. Our nation is dangerously divided. And some, like Nunes, will go to any lengths to deepen that divide. It’s wrong and it’s dangerous.