Yes, #ReleaseTheMemo — and the FISA docs it’s based on
Release it, release it, release it. Ed wrote about it this morning but I want to kick in my vote for hashtag releasing-the-memo too. Because, given the spectacularly dire assessments from House Republicans who’ve read it — “You think about, ‘is this happening in America or is this the KGB?’” — one of only two things can be true.
1. Devin Nunes has uncovered an earth-shaking abuse of power at the DOJ in which a dubious dossier was cooked up into a FISA warrant to investigate the Republican nominee for president for nakedly partisan reasons. And the FISA Court, which is supposed to scrutinize warrants for probable cause, simply rubber-stamped the application and went along. If that’s true, that the entire Russiagate probe is a political hit on Trump with two branches of government in on it, we need to know now. Yesterday. And by “yesterday” I mean “15 months ago.”
2. Devin Nunes is a water-carrying hack for Trump who’s distorted what the DOJ did and didn’t do with the dossier and its FISA application, and so are the various Republicans who are heavy-breathing about what the memo says. If that’s true, that the president’s cronies have concocted a bogus narrative about FBI malfeasance to try to discredit Mueller’s probe before it gets any closer to Trump, we need to know now. They’re destroying the credibility of federal law enforcement to serve their political chieftain.
So release it. Ask Trump to declassify it, put it out there, and let America know the terrible truth either way. But, because we can’t judge whether Nunes is a hack unless we can see for ourselves what his memo is based on, we’ll need the source documents too. Redact as necessary for natsec reasons, but they also need to be declassified and published. Otherwise, why should we believe a word Nunes says?
If Adam Schiff drafted a memo based on classified intel reports blasting Trump for all sorts of misdeeds, Republicans would naturally demand to see those reports. He’s a partisan actor; he’s going to shade the truth in his favor at a minimum. If you’re in favor of releasing the memo but not the actual FISA application from 2016 that inspired it, realistically there are only two possible reasons why.
1. You think Trump would be unfairly attacked for “meddling” with the DOJ by ordering intelligence material declassified to settle a political debate.
2. You fear that Nunes really is a water-carrying hack and that the original FISA application will prove it, destroying Trumpers’ longstanding but unproven (and contested) theory that the dossier is the seed from which the entire Russiagate investigation grew.
I don’t think Trump would be attacked for declassifying the FISA application, at least not as harshly as righties expect, if Nunes’s memo came out first and ignited a firestorm. Hyperpartisan #Resistance tools will attack him for anything, sure, but if a political controversy is raging with the legitimacy of the Russiagate investigation hanging in the balance, Trump would have plenty of justification politically to declassify the FISA warrant and settle it. I’d defend his decision to do it despite my general skepticism about him. The Nunes memo will have essentially forced his hand. A congressman has publicly raised the possibility that the FBI is deeply corrupt and has abused law enforcement to harass the president, and the president himself has the evidence within his possession to tell us if that’s true or false. So tell us. Trump can even issue a statement noting how reluctant he is to declassify, how important it is to keep the DOJ independent of political pressure, but how he has little choice but to do so in this case given the extraordinary public interest in the matter. That was Comey’s justification for breaking with protocol when he gave his press conference on Emailgate in July 2016, right? Well, turnabout is fair play.
If Democrats are as confident as they claim to be that Nunes is a hack, they should be as eager to #ReleaseTheMemo as righties are today, if not more so. The longer they wait, the more the hype machine is going to build a myth around it that it absolutely proves the Russiagate probe is a witch hunt based on nothing … no matter what the finer details of the memo are. There’s no way Hannity and populist media are going to go all-in on this thing for weeks, then have it finally come out and declare it a disappointment. With every day that passes and the legend of the Nunes memo grows, the actual payoff will need to be hyped to the point that it seems to meet expectations whether it does on the merits or not. As I say, that’s why it’s crucial to release the underlying FISA documents too. That’s the only yardstick available to measure whether the reality is commensurate to the endless hype.
Here’s Hannity rocket-launching the memo onto populist, and Russian, radars last night.