The FISA Abuse Memo has finally arrived, and it was nothing. There was nothing interesting in it. Nothing happened and it’s not even worth bothering to read. Don’t even try. You’ll fall asleep. It’s boring and meaningless and just distracting from Trump’s Russia collusion or obstruction or money laundering or whatever the hell Mueller’s supposed to be investigating this week.
Also, as the Democrats predicted this week, all life on Earth has ended because of this memo’s release. Those of us who didn’t die when Net Neutrality was ended or the Tax Reform passed are surely dead now. The memo has destroyed the FBI, revealed all of our top secret methods for gathering intelligence, published the home addresses of all DOJ employees, and elected Putin Emperor of Earth. It’s so dangerous, it should be illegal to read it.
You might ask, “How can both of those paragraphs possibly be true, Thrill, you asshole?” Beats me. But that’s pretty much what the Democrats, the media, and other Deep State apologists are saying. James Comey managed to squeeze those conflicting sentiments into a single tweet.
Somehow, it’s both untrue and it revealed damaging secrets that are apparently true? I stand by what I said before. Trump screwed up in the way he fired Comey, but his worst mistake was not firing him much, much earlier.
What do I think? I’m glad you asked. The memo was better than I expected, though my expectations were admittedly low. The memo is direct, concise, easily digestible, and completely unredacted. You’ve had all day to either read the thing or have heard it explained by your favorite pundits so there’s only so much I can say, but I’ll do my best.
First, this memo is only a “nothingburger” if you really thought it was going to be the smoking gun that resulted in Rosenstein and Mueller being immediately fired, Hillary being arrested, and the Satanic perpetrators of P_zzag_te being rounded up and burned alive on stakes in Lafayette Park under Trump’s stern gaze. Some Congressional Republicans are to be blamed for overselling the “Mueller will have to end his investigation!” angle, lots of people on the Right made this out to involve more than FISA abuse, and the Democrats (bafflingly) decided to throw a royal shit-fit over it for days and exaggerate what would happen if the memo was released; thus bringing the full attention of the American public on it so much that the press couldn’t ignore it if they wanted to.
I think this was nuts because having done that, it is making it more difficult for them to convince everyone that it’s a “nothingburger” now. But they don’t have any possible, coherent response to this, I suppose, so….why not go mad?
Next, the memo does not endanger national security at all nor did it reveal anything that could potentially damage current or future investigations. It’s bullshit, anyone who says otherwise is lying, and the Democrats are again making it worse for themselves by screeching about it since it’s easily debunked. I’ll gleefully pounce on anyone in the comments who wants to argue otherwise and doesn’t have anything from the memo with which to back it up.
What the memo boils down to is this, at the most basic and stripped-down: the Department of Justice and the FBI sought a FISA warrant (and multiple extensions of it) against an American citizen and obtained it by presenting information that was highly suspect and they knowingly withheld information from the court that they knew would weaken the justification for a warrant. That’s the barebones, totally non-politicized summary of this very short memo, okay?
The officials who filed the FISA application and its extensions pushed for the most intricate surveillance that the United States government can bring against an American citizen and they chose not to tell the court some facts they knew full well that they were supposed to.
- They should have told the court that the information that they were using as the backbone of their reasonable cause had been gathered by a private contractor and paid for by a group that had a direct interest in harming the American citizen and the organization he had been working for. They did not.
- They used a news report about the allegations against the American citizen as evidence to support the FISA application when they knew that the contractor mentioned above was the source for the story. The contractor had already violated rules about confidentiality and should have been considered unreliable long before the warrant was approved and they subsequently did end up breaking off with him for that reason. They should have informed the court about this. They didn’t.
- The FBI knew that the contractor who had gathered the information–without which it would not have tried to obtain the FISA warrant–had expressed a personal motive for working against the American citizen who was targeted and it went right to the heart of his objectivity as a source. The officials named in the memo knew full well that they should have told this to the court. Didn’t.
- A senior DOJ official’s wife was working for the contractor who was gathering the information that was used to obtain the FISA warrant against the targeted American citizen. She gave what she found to her husband and it was passed on to the FBI. This should have been mentioned in the FISA application. It was…..not.
I think it’s important to first understand that Congress has identified multiple ways in which an American citizen’s Constitutional rights were horribly violated before we get into any of the political ramifications. Maybe you don’t think what they are said to have done is that bad, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that judges and juries take this sort of misbehavior on the part of prosecutors and law enforcement agencies really, really seriously.
They are required by law to provide information they have which might help prove an accused person’s innocence to courts. You remember Cliven Bundy? The rancher who virtually tried to start an insurrection against the federal government a couple of years ago? He is a free man because the FBI knew that information it had in its possession would strengthen Bundy’s defense and they chose not to share it with the court. Anybody who watched the Bundy Ranch Showdown knows the guy did what the government alleged, but it didn’t matter because the government’s boner for violating his civil rights led the judge to dismiss the charges. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
In Bundy’s case, the information the FBI sat on wasn’t highly classified nor were the surveillance methods used. In a FISA court, there has to be a lot of trust in the officials and they must have absolute credibility that they are providing the whole truth because the materials and methods are so sensitive. It looks like the FBI and DOJ may have tried to do in this case what they did to Bundy, whatever the motivation, and they didn’t think it would come to light for one reason or another.
Now, you can certainly say, “Yeah, Thrill, but some of those allegations that are in the memo are disputed. We don’t have all of the facts.” Well, you’re right. We need more information and this memo has actually already accomplished its purpose by opening the door leading to Congress doing exactly that.
The allegations made by Nunes and the gang should be further investigated and they already are. There’s been a criminal referral for Steele’s role in this from the Senate Intelligence Committee. The targeted American citizen, Carter Page, is suing the government for violating his rights and he’ll have the benefit of discovery (for all of its surveillance, the FBI never could bring a charge against him for anything other than wearing stupid hats). There are several other investigative reports you can expect out of both houses of Congress over the DOJ, State Department, intelligence agencies, and other facets of this whole affair. Anyone who is trying to downplay the memo’s signficance is a goddamn fool or is lying to you. It’s the first shot-fired, it’s just not a head-shot.
Most importantly, the Office of the Inspector General report on the DOJ is coming very soon and it is probably going to provide a lot more support for the claims made in this memo. I believe that it will result in another special prosecutor being turned loose on both current and former employees of the DOJ and FBI and I hope they all suffer if it’s proven true that they really spied on an American citizen under false pretenses for any reason, let alone attempting to undermine a presidential election.
I’ve tried to sanitize my above analysis of politics because we should all be able to agree that if the FBI and DOJ were deliberately violating anyone’s civil rights–whether it’s Carter Page or Cliven Bundy or anybody else–it’s appropriate that the public be informed about the circumstances by Congress through official channels. It’s necessary. Anyone who says differently is being a destructive, partisan asshat. There’s no other reason for it. Allowing this sort of misconduct to occur and turning a blind eye to it because it hurts a president you don’t like is what will undermine faith in the DOJ and FBI, not exposing real misconduct and trying to prevent it from happening again, ffs.
For all that, I can’t pretend that the memo isn’t fully seeped in politics. It is. The memo alleges that US government officials and a contractor they were using as a source were trying to influence the outcome and aftermath of the 2016 election. One of those named officials in the memo who submitted at least one of those applications in which exculpatory information was allegedly deliberately withheld did so after the election and he’s currently the Deputy Attorney General: Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein is also the one who appointed Mueller as Special Counsel, as you know.
There’s a fear that Trump can now use the memo’s allegations (even though it’s a total nothingburger, dudes) to have Rosenstein fired and with him, Mueller. Well, I don’t know if Rosenstein is on his way out over this. I’ll say he doesn’t look good and he probably should take some time this weekend and update his resume, just in case. I personally would need to see more evidence that Rosenstein specifically engaged in any misconduct before I’d support Trump firing him. There’s not enough in the memo to make that case. I’m not saying it’s not out there and might not still come to light, it just isn’t in this memo.
What if Rosenstein does get fired? It doesn’t mean that Mueller’s investigation would be terminated. Sessions can’t fire him since he’s recused and Rosenstein’s next in line would destroy her career if she did it (I think it’s Rachel Brand, but I’m not for sure).
Truthfully, I don’t think getting rid of Mueller would be in Trump’s best interest. He’d be better off getting a new Deputy AG who would limit Mueller’s investigation only to Russian interference instead of Manafort’s money laundering, obstruction, and whatever else he’s doing.
Trump would be best off simply letting Mueller finish his investigation since he’s either not going to recommend impeachment or charges for anyone who Trump won’t want to pardon or he will recommend that and Congress will refuse to act because of its opinion about the false pretenses that the entire Trump-Russia collusion investigation was built upon. Getting rid of Mueller or hobbling him would hurt Trump in the long run. I think letting the facts emerge which discredit the investigation while not otherwise impeding it is the best option and that seems to be what Trump and the GOP Congress are doing.
Before you claim that this is all nefarious, I’ll just make a few points. The Republicans didn’t tell the Clinton campaign to hire Fusion GPS. Devin Nunes didn’t tell the DOJ or the FBI to use the unverified Steele dossier as a source for a FISA warrant against Page or even to fire Steele when he violated confidentiality rules and proved to be an unreliable asset. Trump didn’t tell Mueller to staff his investigative team with Democratic donors or the deeply-flawed Special Agent Strzok. It wasn’t Jeff Sessions’s idea to have Mueller go after Manafort and who’s-it for charges unrelated to investigating Russian interference in the election. It’s these facts which could discredit the investigation, not Republicans. All Trump and Congress need to do is put them out there and we’ll see if they hold up under scrutiny.
So for all that, I say that releasing the memo was a good thing and the document itself should be taken seriously. Congress certainly has more substantial evidence and I hope that they release all of it, whether it’s good or bad for Republicans. Officials politicizing intelligence and law enforcement is what I (and millions of other Republicans) believe got the country into this crisis of public confidence and only full, fair disclosure will get us out and lead to restoring trust in those agencies.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong and the FBI and DOJ did absolutely nothing wrong and the evidence that emerges will prove it. If so, I’ll happily criticize Nunes and the gang for helping make me look like an idiot today (not that I need the help).
I want the truth, not validation. You should want the same for the sake of our rights, institutions, and our country.