I’m reading the Nunes memo and recording my thoughts as I go.
The first words are “This memorandum provides Members with an update on significant facts . . .” That’s critically important: an admission that the subject matter is selective. If we went only by the “significant facts” that Donald Trump is 70 and rich, would that tell us all we need to know about him?
In the first paragraph under the heading “Investigation Update,” Nunes and his staff describe the process for obtaining a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) order on an American citizen. If memory serves, every individual who approved the October 2016 surveillance order on Carter Page is a Republican. So this document isn’t partisan, as I’m hearing in the press, it’s authoritarian, issued to protect the leader and to feed his followers’ sense of betrayal.
We get to the allegations at the top of the second page. FISA orders have to be renewed every 90 days, and according to the memo, the federal government has an obligation to present the court with “information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government.” But the FBI and Justice Department ignored this obligation:
1. They failed to disclose that Christopher Steele was paid $160,000 by the Democratic National Committee to do opposition research on Trump, and some of that research was used to justify the FISA order.
2. I don’t understand the second charge. It sounds as if Nunes and staff are saying Steele talked to Yahoo News about subjects also in the dossier Steele sent to the Democratic National Committee, but the two accounts don’t jibe, and to finesse the contradiction, the FBI and Justice Department “incorrectly assess” that Steele was not interviewed by Yahoo News. If Nunes and staff knew this memo was going public, shouldn’t they have made this section clearer to lay readers?
3. The FBI and Justice Department failed to disclose that Steele confessed to Bruce Ohr, a subordinate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” (Those words are bolded in the memo.) They also failed to disclose that Ohr’s wife worked for the same company (Fusion GPS) that paid Steele to do opposition research on Trump.
The real point of the memo is at the bottom of the third page: “While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations.”
So what have we got here? At best, evidence that Christopher Steele was working for partisans of Hillary Clinton, dug up dirt on Donald Trump, and the FBI and Justice Department erred by using that dirt to spy on Carter Page without advising the FISA court that Steele wanted Trump to lose the election.
Nothing goes to the real question: did Trump and/or his campaign collude with the Russians to win in 2016?
And even if it’s true that Steele wanted Trump to lose and was paid by Clinton sympathizers to dig up dirt on Trump, does that make the dirt he found false?
Ugh. What a bunch of nothing. I truly hope the fight over this memorandum doesn’t turn into the Constitutional crisis some people are expecting. That would be America going out with a whimper instead of a bang.