Sorry for harping on this, but if the Nunes memo marks the start of the Constitutional crisis we’ve been expecting from Trump, I want to make sure I’m on record.
Predictably, Trump proclaimed in a tweet this morning that the Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him. It brought to mind a line by my favorite bluegrass band, the Austin Lounge Lizards, in a song about Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra scandal: “He’s stupid if he didn’t know, dishonest if he did.”
Let’s review. Looked at in the most favorable light, the Nunes memo establishes that evidence gathered through FISA-sanctioned surveillance on Carter Page was unlawfully obtained.
In the context of a broad investigation, that’s a modest argument. It doesn’t claim the overall investigation is unjustified. It doesn’t clear Trump or anyone in his campaign of either collusion or obstruction of justice.
But it’s the insinuation that counts.
The memo writers are appealing to Trump and his followers through inductive reasoning, i.e. inviting them to make general conclusions from specific examples, which is always sketchy: the FBI and Department of Justice used biased sources and didn’t volunteer that information when asking for permission to spy on Carter Page, therefore the entire investigation is corrupt.
Again, that’s looking at the memo in its best light and assuming its allegations are true. Looked at less sympathetically, the points raised by the memo may be immaterial and perhaps deliberately misleading.
I didn’t realize this as I read the memo last night, but the last paragraph includes an admission that Carter Page came to the attention of the FBI and Department of Justice in July 2016 because of his connection to Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who last October pleaded guilty to charges of lying about his cozy relationship with Russian agents.
Was it the Papadopoulos connection that led to the FISA application? The Steele dossier? Something else that’s still classified? A combination of those things? If so, in what proportion? We don’t know, and the memo doesn’t say. So a memo written to expose critical omissions itself includes critical omissions. As Dana Carvey’s Church Lady used to say, “how con-veeeee-nient.”
And that’s another thing: a judge had to rule on all of this! If the FBI and Department of Justice presented a legally deficient case, wasn’t it the judge’s job to deny their FISA application? But a judge approved their FISA application — four times. That’s either a super-incompetent judge or — duh duh DUHHHH — a judge in on the conspiracy against poor Donny Trump.
That’s another key insinuation wrapped into the memo: anyone with a different political viewpoint cannot treat you fairly. I’ve dealt with hundreds of lawsuits during my years at UC Berkeley. You know who accuses anyone who doesn’t agree with them of conspiring against them? Paranoid schizophrenics.
So perhaps Trump is too stupid to understand the memo, or perhaps he’s just lying about it to goad his base. But those may not be the only possibilities.