President Donald Trump today declassified and released a summary memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) against the recommendations of the FBI, Justice Department and the greater intelligence community – in an attempt to refute the legitimacy of damaging information collected against the president.
This highly politicized Nunes memo was issued by the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, to suggest information collected by Fusion GPS, known as the Steele dossier, was tainted in part due to payment from Democrats to use it as opposition research. This dossier was later submitted into evidentiary review to secure a warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy advisor who is under investigation as an agent of a foreign government. It further insinuated that the Mueller investigation into the president’s possible collusion with Russia was a fabrication by a corrupt FBI.
The implication of these charges sets up a scenario where President Trump could use this postulation as cover to fire Rod Rosenstein, deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. Rosenstien is the boss of Robert Mueller, who heads the special counsel investigation into Trump’s collusion and possible obstruction crimes. With Rosenstein out of the way, Trump could more easily manipulate the investigation or fire Mueller.
Review of the memo has garnered bi-partisan criticism for its poor construction and failure to delegitimize any aspect of the Mueller investigation or offer Trump insulation from its findings. Largely the memo is a non-bombshell, a politically motivated hit job authorized by Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), containing cherry-picked information without providing the context submitted to FISA judges.
It’s telling no argument was made that the underlying evidence that led to granting the FISA warrant on Page was false or incorrect. It only suggested additional information should have been used other than the controversial Steele dossier, omitting that a great deal of other evidence was provided in support of the FISA warrant. Nor is there any legal protection afforded to an offender for being implicated by damaging evidence simply because the party that supplied it may not “like” the suspect.
There are plenty of constitutional protections for Carter Page against unlawful search and seizure. If Trump and his conspirators think something here was untoward, Page’s attorney could go back to court and argue those merits in privacy. It would prevent the public airing of classified information that potentially is harmful to America, and if founded would nullify the evidence and poison any subsequent fruit discovered from its use.
By not seeking this available legal remedy it tips Trump’s hand that he wants to conflate a bogus conspiracy theory about improperly collected surveillance to then allow him to shut down the entire Mueller investigation, since it’s hurtful to the president’s ruse of no obstruction. This of course fails to take into account that four individuals associated with the Trump campaign have already been indicted, two of which have pled guilty.
The president’s actions today to declassify and release the Nunes memo are unprecedented by a chief executive and subvert democracy by blatantly disregarding the intelligence and law enforcement communities. The American government has time-tested norms and traditions that offer executive protections from abuses of power and commingling separate branches of government for perverse uses to further corruption. Donald Trump treats norms and traditions like speed bumps, and blows right through them.
If Trump has nothing to hide, then why does he keep injecting himself into this investigation? Mueller has not yet revealed any direct evidence of Trump’s culpability, but when looking at who has been arrested and then inferring the connection of those dots higher, it becomes plausible the president has exposed himself to wrongdoing.
Trump consistently interferes with government agencies and key players who are seeking the truth about his campaign’s contacts with Russians. While there are a variety of important issues the president should be working on like negotiating a budget, immigration reform, building his stupid wall, infrastructure, the opioid epidemic – yet instead he consciously devotes significant time and uses the stature of the presidency to obfuscate and obstruct the independent investigation into his Russian contacts.
We’ve seen Trump metastasize his guilt by seeking loyalty oaths from agency leaders, firing the head of the FBI without cause, firing the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, without cause, forcing the resignation of 46 U.S. attorneys general, and forcing the retirement of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
What does the president have to hide?
Ultimately Trump’s actions indicate guilt and are the maneuvers of an individual feeling threatened by a penetrating investigation that the president needs to choke off before an impeachable offense is revealed.