So much for a lull before the State of the Union speech. The House Intelligence Committee has issued a notice that they will hold a meeting this afternoon, which has perked up ears on Capitol Hill. The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams believes that it could allow the panel to approve the release of a memo by Devin Nunes that has been hailed as an indictment against the FBI and Department of Justice.
Or maybe they’re just rearranging the hearing room. Who knows?
The House Intelligence Committee could vote as early as Monday evening to release a controversial memo authored by committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice.
The panel issued a last-minute notice of a business meeting at 5 p.m. for “consideration of pending committee business and other matters.” The memo did not specify a vote on the memo, but one has been expected amidst a crescendo of calls from the right. …
Republicans are relying on an archaic House rule that members say the committee has never used before to release the memo. If the panel votes to override the classification of the document and make it public, the White House would have five days to oppose its publication.
The Justice Department, which has been blocked from viewing the document, has opposed the move. But the White House, which also says it has not viewed the memo, has signaled support for its release.
No kidding. Yesterday, the White House all but cheerleaded for #ReleasetheMemo yesterday. Marc Short said that Trump wants full transparency, and has been frustrated by “appearances of conflict of interest at the very top” of the FBI:
WALLACE: Finally, let’s look at this from the other side because some top Republicans in Congress talked about bias and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI and the Justice Department in their investigation both of Hillary Clinton and of Donald Trump. One, does the president believe that’s true, that there has been abuse, that there has been bias in the investigations, and two, as The Washington Post reports today, does he want to see that four-page memo to that effect coming out of the House Intelligence Committee, does he want to see that release to the public?
SHORT: Well, one, we don’t know what’s in the memo. It’s classified, I haven’t seen it. But I think the president generally is on the side of transparency.
And so, yes, I think he believes that that should be put out. But on the first question, I think that where we stand is that — again, there has been significant investigation so far and no evidence of any sort of collusion.
WALLACE: When he hears things like the text between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, does that concern (ph) —
SHORT: Sure. Of course, that frustrates him. I think something else that he’s continually mentioned is the fact that McCabe’s wife received $700,000 in political contributions from one of the Clinton’s close personal friends in Terry McAuliffe, and yet was leading the investigation into Hillary Clinton. So, yes, I think he’s concerned about several appearances of conflict of interest there.
At the same time, he is going down to the FBI Academy in Quantico and spoke into the agents and talks about how much he appreciates their work in their efforts. But, yes, I’m sure he’s very concerned about some of the appearances of conflict of interest at the very top of the agency in the last administration.
On the same Fox News Sunday program, Rep. Trey Gowdy told Chris Wallace that he should want the memo released:
This memo is nothing but a — a — the distilling, the reducing of thousands of pages of documents provided to us by the department and the bureau. So there’s nothing in this memo that the department is not already aware of.
If you think your viewers want to know whether or not the dossier was used in court proceedings, whether or not it was vetted before it was used, whether or not it’s ever been vetted. If you are interested in who paid for the dossier. If you’re interested in Christopher Steele’s relationship with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, then, yes, you’ll want the memo to come out.
If you’re Adam Schiff, who is consistently wrong when it comes to issues of disclosure — he didn’t want us to find out any of this information, Chris. He — he fought. In fact, GPS went to court — Fusion GPS went to court to keep us from finding out that the Democrats paid for the dossier. So if you’re Adam Schiff, of course you don’t want the information to come out. You didn’t want us to find it in the first place.
One person who may not want the memo released is Rod Rosenstein. The New York Times reports that the memo focuses intently on his role in getting the FISA warrant on Carter Page that opened the door for the FBI to surveil the Trump campaign in 2016:
A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.
The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.
The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Democrats who have read the document say Republicans have cherry-picked facts to create a misleading and dangerous narrative. But in their efforts to discredit the inquiry, Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, who served as a Trump foreign policy adviser until September 2016.
If that’s true, then yes, the memo should get released. But then too should the Democratic minority response and all of the supporting intelligence that the two memos attempt to “distill.” Contra Gowdy, partisan committee reports are not merely distillations — they are inherently political documents that make arguments and reach conclusions that by their nature are not supported by a consensus. (If they were, the whole committee would approve the report.) The Nunes memo wants to make an argument based on a representation of evidence that Republicans favor. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but it doesn’t make it right either.
If all we get is one memo released, it’s worthless as a means for others to reach any conclusions. We would need to compare the arguments against the full context of the evidence to the greatest extent possible without revealing sources or methods. If the House Intel Committee votes for a full release, that’s transparency. If they vote for only the release of their argument, that’s not transparency — that’s manipulation. Regardless of one’s position on the Russia-collusion probe, we can all agree that we’ve had enough manipulation in this investigation already, and we don’t need any more added to it.