In the United States, we have always believed in the importance of letting criminal investigations run their course. Donald Trump is doing everything he can to impede the Russia investigation. Devin Nunes and Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee are helping him. As you probably know, seven Republicans in the committee voted last week to release Devin Nunes’ memo alleging surveillance abuses by the Department of Justice and, in particular, by the FBI. This release followed several days of the surging hashtag, #ReleaseTheMemo, which was backed by multiple Russian bots, by the way. The Memo, as it has come to be called, has been revered by Republicans as though it were key evidence pulled from a vast network of material. It was written by Devin Nunes’ office. It’s an opinion piece and pulls isolated pieces of information from various places in a FISA warrant renewal application and implies a conspiracy around them. Still, Trump tweeted on Feb 3: “The four page memo released Friday reports the disturbing fact about how the FBI and FISA appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election and its aftermath….The FBI failed to inform the FISA court that the Clinton campaign had funded the dossier….the FBI became….” “…a tool of anti-Trump political actors. This is unacceptable in a democracy and ought to alarm anyone who wants the FBI to be a nonpartisan enforcer of the law….The FBI wasn’t straight with Congress, as it hid most of these facts from investigators.” Wall Street Journal A Republican law-maker, Rep Paul Gosar from Arizona, is publicly calling for the prosecution of three prominent Republicans and one Democrat based on The Memo, which he says shows “clear and convincing evidence of treason” by law-enforcement officials. The three Republicans are James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Rod Rosenstein. The Democrat is Sally Yates. Treason is punishable by death. The way I see it is, Republicans are throwing other hard-working Republicans who have been public servants all their lives under the bus. The question is why. At this point, it’s difficult to determine if it would be better to point out the errors in logic in the memo or simply to discuss the fact that a very, very large number of knowledgeable political analysts and media reporters have pointed out these errors. For example, Anderson Cooper cogently and logically explained during his broadcast on February 5 that it’s clear that while Trump considers The Memo vindication for “Trump” (he put out a tweet saying so), The Memo actually proves nothing about Donald Trump’s innocence. These analysts and reporters will be dismissed as “Fake News” because they aren’t saying what Trump and his people want to hear, though. If Anderson Cooper reported that The Memo vindicated Trump, Trump would tweet out his broadcast with praise. That’s the world we live in now. So, ignoring what reporters and analysts are saying and reading The Memo directly, what are some of the errors in logic? Not wanting to bore anyone and realizing that that may not be what you’re interested in right now, I will mention just this:
- The specific “abuse” The Memo refers to is the evidence used to obtain a FISA warrant renewal not the initial FISA warrant;
- The FISA warrant was on Carter Page, who was associated with Donald Trump but was not Donald Trump himself;
- The complaint is about a partial amount of evidence and by no means all of the evidence. Are you still with me? Because I’m not done. I don’t have top secret clearance, but the Nunes memo seems to present what is pretty clearly a ridiculous argument for logically absurd reasons. It is trying to imply that the FISA warrant was obtained illegally but the warrant had already been obtained prior to the Steele Dossier’s evidence’s being used. The Nunes memo only refers to a warrant renewal application, so there was ample evidence for surveillance of Carter Page prior to this renewal application being put forth with the small amount of evidence being used from the Steele Dossier. The Nunes memo further argues these last two things that tie it all up into a big fat conspiracy in the minds of Trump people:
- The FISA warrant renewal did not specifically list every single group – and there were a lot of them – involved in paying for the investigations that were involved in getting the evidence for the FISA warrant renewal;
- And, in conclusion, since the DNC was one of the groups who paid someone to investigate Donald Trump and his campaign (not Carter Page), and since during the investigation of Donald Trump and his campaign, evidence was found that was useful for the obtaining the FISA warrant renewal on Carter Page, and since the resulting surveillance ultimately found evidence that ended up being useful against Donald Trump (???), the FBI should have been extremely explicit about listing the DNC in its application for a FISA warrant renewal on Carter Page. That last thing, number two above, seems like the conclusion we are supposed to reach, as absurd as it seems. And there it is in the minds of Republicans loyal to Trump: a conspiracy against their leader. Okay, let’s make a leap. So anyone involved with Trump’s campaign, even those being previously watched by the Justice Department as possible Russian agents, should not have been surveilled during Trump’s campaign if any evidence against them was collected by anyone who was paid by a high profile Democrat? Seems like an extreme leap in one sense but in another sense, it’s exactly what The Memo is implying. You know, we’ve been thoroughly well-informed by now that the FISA warrant did say the evidence obtained from Steele had been collected for political reasons, so nothing was honestly omitted. The only thing that was not specifically spelled out in the warrant was Hillary Clinton’s name and The Memo supposes this was inappropriate because Hillary Clinton was Donald Trump’s political opponent. But again, the warrant was for Carter Page, a long-suspected Russian agent. The Steele dossier was only part of the evidence in the FISA application. And the application was for a FISA renewal that had been going on for a while already. Further, no one has stated that anything that was done was illegal. They just say that it was a conspiracy against Trump. Adam Schiff and others who have seen the top secret information that shows exactly what the FISA warrant application renewal included are saying that the application stated the evidence from Christopher Steele was politically motivated. If that’s true, then due process of law was followed. I wonder, however, if due process of law is what Trump and his followers are interested in. It seems as though what they actually want to do is to rile people up. My Republican family members who strongly support Trump are sending me posts and tweets that contain long descriptions of the “conspiracy” involving Obama’s administration, the media, the DNC, and the Justice Department to bring down one stupid man, beginning way back in early 2016, when he wasn’t doing very well in the polls anyway. When I try to reason with them, they gently tell me that I am naïve. So is the point of The Memo to rile Trump supporters up? Is it to undermine the Russia investigation? Is it to protect Trump from legal prosecution and from impeachment? In other words, is it to subvert the rule of law in this country? This past year, all but 5 or 6 members of the Senate and the House voted to sanction Russia for its election meddling in this past presidential election and the resulting nightmare we have been living in. The result of the sanctions? We’ll never know, because Trump simply will not impose them. Donald Trump, one man, decided to do what almost our entire Congress voted to do, and we are just sitting by watching it happen. People do not seem to be noticing what is going on. Maybe that’s not it, though. Maybe people are well aware of what is happening but some sort of exhaustion has set in. Or maybe we have become resigned. Our government is beginning to ignore the rule of law and we are accepting outrage after outrage. We have been forced to swallow more and more since the 2016 election. I have been watching Donald Trump pretty carefully, from a safe distance, for about 30 months now. At first, I thought he was just a misogynistic, racist, pampered man who didn’t really know what it means to have to work in his life. I thought he just wanted people to like him. Then I realized how dangerous it is to have someone like that in power. Someone like that can be manipulated with a smile, with a little praise, with some false goodwill. Is that what happened to him during the 2016 election? Did some Russian emissaries approach him with false goodwill and convince him to sell out? I guess we’ll never know. But I do think he’s guilty. Why else would he impede the Russia investigation so whole-heartedly and undermine our rule of law every step of the way? Even if he’s only a little guilty, even if he was fooled into it, even if he sold us out for money from the Deustche Bank or for friendship from Russian spies, whatever the reason was, guilt is like pregnancy. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you are - the bottom line is, either you are, or you aren’t. And if being guilty means you’re going to wreak havoc on our justice system, I think it’s time for you to go.
Jamie Watts 2/7/18