Why does #ReleasetheMemo feel like a set-up for a let-down? The starboard side of American political social media is ablaze with demands to declassify a House Intelligence Committee majority report after Rep. Mark Meadows called it “absolutely shocking” last night. His colleague Steve King called it “worse than Watergate.” Rumor has it that the report details collusion between the Obama administration, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Fusion GPS’ efforts on the notorious Christopher Steele dossier on Donald Trump.
If true, it would be the linchpin of all conspiracy theories on the Right. If:
I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called "Russian collusion." What I saw is absolutely shocking.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 19, 2018
Republican members of Congress, mostly conservative, are calling for the release of a brief memo written by the House Intelligence Committee about alleged FISA surveillance abuses. The committee had voted along party lines Thursday to allow House members to read the memo. …
Fox News host Sean Hannity said Thursday night on “Hannity” that the memo involves the text messages betweenPeter Strzok and his mistress that prove that the dossier was the pretext for FISA warrants. Strzok was the agent who led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state and who changed the language in former FBI Director James Comey’s description of how Clinton handled classified information.
But, er … we already know about the Strzok texts and their potential impact on the FISA warrants. Perhaps the memo exposes more information that would help connect those dots with stronger lines, but that part of the issue is at least already well known. Meanwhile, the committee’s ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) warns that the memo would expose classified intelligence for no good reason:
“Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI,” Schiff’s statement said. “This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”
Others accuse Republicans of seizing on their own partisan draft to attack the FBI as a means to discredit the Russian-collusion investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller. However, it might be a campaign to get Trump to veto the authorization for Section 702 passed by the Senate yesterday, Lawfare’s executive editor suggests:
Source with knowledge tells me the Nunes memo is "a level of irresponsible stupidity that I cannot fathom. Purposefully misconstrues facts and leaves out important details." https://t.co/YmzmrHvpYG
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 19, 2018
It appears to be some loose collection of Nunes's individual unfounded allegations related to unmasking, not clearly even endorsed by his fellow Republicans, now being seized on by opportunists looking for a Hail Mary to try to tank the 702 bill before Trump signs it. https://t.co/KnsT0VcA1o
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) January 19, 2018
Hennessey also points out that it’s going to be a while before anyone sees this memo anyway. Congress has to get an executive branch review of the material in order to have its underlying information declassified before it can be released. (Congress does not have plenary authorization to declassify information produced under the aegis of the executive branch, which covers just about everything.) That will take several weeks, not hours, so get ready for a long wait.
Will the suspense be worth the payoff? Perhaps; there’s certainly been some smoke around the relationships between Fusion GPS, the Obama Department of Justice, and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That’s probably why King’s using the Watergate comparison. But it’s not enough to write a majority report at the House Intel Committee — it has to be backed up by solid evidence. Perhaps we should postpone MemoMas until we take a close look at it, rather than listen to the self-interested partisans describing it to us.
In other words, #ReleasetheMemo while protecting intel sources and methods, but let’s not go all-in on it until we have a chance to see it for ourselves. In the meantime, remember that most things that seem too good to be true usually are.
Addendum: Another reason for skepticism is that the original FISA warrant is still classified. Donald Trump has the authority to declassify it any time he wants, and yet a year has gone by without any action to do so. If that was helpful to laying out a case against the Obama administration, wouldn’t he have declassified it months ago?