Trump will formally declassify it soon, according to Fox News and CBS, but it’s up to Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee whether and when to release it. That’s why Adam Schiff’s throwing a Hail Mary and claiming that the memo was edited *after* the Committee voted a few days ago to release it. Obviously he’s trying to slow down the process and delay the release of Nunes’s document until his own counter-memo has been vetted and is ready to go. Why let Nunes’s claims have time alone in the spotlight, where they might more easily get traction?
A gigantic political mud pit is being prepared and we’ll all be wrestling in it in 24 hours or so. Wear goggles!
President Trump is expected to swiftly declassify a controversial memo on purported surveillance abuses, sources tell Fox News, even as Democrats raise objections that edits were made to the document since it was approved for release by a key committee.
The release is likely to come Friday morning, Fox News is told…
Sources said the edited version was shown to five FBI officials at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. Sources said the officials were satisfied that the edited memo addressed concerns they had about the earlier version they reviewed on Monday.
“Trump sees Nunes memo as a way to discredit the Russia investigation,” trumpets CNN in a breathless headline today, which is “news” in the same way it’s “news,” I guess, that the GOP saw passing tax cuts as a way to improve its chances in the midterms. Everyone understands what the political calculus is. No one (except libertarians) is interested in the memo because they’re deeply concerned about possible FBI and FISA Court abuses in the abstract. The memo is a referendum on Russiagate: Is it a “witch hunt” or isn’t it? Did the entire probe grow out of oppo research paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign or didn’t it? If yes then, supposedly, the whole investigation is fruit of the poisonous tree and should be ended. That’s not the way the law here actually works but the memo is a political document, not a legal document, and this is a political debate. If it wasn’t, if it was some sort of good faith fact-finding exercise, the FISA application against Carter Page would be declassified and released too.
I believe Nunes, by the way, that the edits that Adam Schiff is so worried about aren’t an attempt to pull a fast one. More likely, they were made to address the concerns of DOJ officials who’ve read the memo in the last few days and are worried that it might reveal too much about sources and methods.
DEVELOPING: The White House has agreed to some redactions in the FISA memo at the FBI’s request, per multiple WH officials.
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) February 1, 2018
Just talked with House Intel source. Said total changes to memo were: A) Unknown number of 'grammatical and clarifying' fixes. B) One change requested by FBI due to sources & methods concerns. C) One two-word change requested by Democrats for accuracy. House Intel GOP statement: pic.twitter.com/ZkNuMBoLZK
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 1, 2018
On FBI-requested change to House Intel memo, remember that Nunes showed memo to Wray on Sunday, to two FBI officials on Monday, and WH showed to five more FBI officials on Tuesday. Not shocking that change would be made to address FBI concerns.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 1, 2018
In fact, it’s even in dispute whether the edits were made after the vote, as Schiff claims:
A House Intel Committee Republican source is telling me that edits to the FISA memo were made *before* the committee voted to release. Suggests maybe Democrats didn't see the changes, which source says were "minor" edits.
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) February 1, 2018
Trump and Nunes have every reason to acquiesce to FBI requests for “sources and methods” revisions. The only way this becomes an all-out political catastrophe for them is if there’s something sensitive in there that ends up costing the U.S. something in terms of national security. They’d be torn to shreds by critics for exposing the country or its informants to danger in the name of fighting a political war over Russiagate. The prudent thing to do is to agree to the edits. Although why the Intel Committee would vote to release the memo *before* letting the FBI vet the contents — if in fact that’s what happened — makes no sense outside of political considerations. There’s no reason to rush it out there unless this is essentially a messaging game in which they’re trying to put their spin in front of the media before the Democrats have a chance to do so. Which, of course, is what it is.
Come to think of it, there *is* one other way this could backfire on Trump and Nunes, even if the memo reveals nothing that would jeopardize national security. What if some Republicans are unimpressed with the document and side with Democrats in criticizing it? And what if one of those Republicans isn’t some milquetoast establishment “globalist” RINO but rather someone held in high regard by the right? An interesting tidbit from Politico:
[Trey] Gowdy has found himself butting heads in recent months with Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other pro-Trump Republicans who have hinted at corruption at the FBI. He’s expressed concerns about anti-Trump texts by some FBI officials, and he has said on TV that Congress has a duty to oversee the agency. But behind the scenes he’s had to rein in some of his conservative colleagues who want to undercut the entirety of the Justice Department, which he views as essential to American life.
Gowdy’s in a tight spot. Remember, he’s the only Republican on the House Intel Committee, including Devin Nunes, to have reviewed the intelligence on which the memo is based. *He’s* the guy who’ll be expected to defend its conclusions publicly, even more so than Nunes will. And he has defended it; go watch this interview with Erin Burnett from a few days ago if you missed it the first time. But Gowdy’s also a guy who’s so committed to law enforcement that he’s leaving Congress in order to rejoin it. If Memogate turns into an all-out assault on the DOJ by the Republican Party — which it will, probably within 45 minutes of the memo being released tomorrow — he’ll be torn between defending the memo’s conclusions and pushing back on the more demagogic eruptions from the White House and Congress towards the Justice Department. Having Gowdy on TV urging Nunes et al. to chill out would be very off-message, maybe enough so to alienate Trump and cost him any chance at a judicial or executive appointment. He could end up as an unlikely thorn in the GOP’s side depending upon how bad this gets.
In lieu of an exit question, read this recounting of the last few months of attack lines from Trump and his allies on the integrity of the Russiagate probe. Mueller’s conflicts of interest, donations to Democrats by members of his team, improperly obtained Trump transition emails, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and of course the Steele dossier and the memo: Some of it’s been around for ages, some of it came and went so quickly that I didn’t remember it until the piece reminded me. As with so much else about the Russia investigation, though, you can assimilate the rapid-fire attacks into your preferred narrative. If you’re anti-Trump, the scattershot nature of them is proof that the White House is nervous and flailing, throwing everything they can at Mueller in hope that something sticks. If you’re pro-Trump, the sheer volume of objections is proof enough of how compromised the investigation is. One or two complaints about Mueller and the FBI might be dismissible, but six or seven? The buzz around Memogate, though, suggests that maybe we’re done now with the kitchen-sink approach and Trump and Nunes are prepared to go all-in on the dossier and the Carter Page FISA application. High stakes! Wear your goggles.