The House Intelligence Committee has unanimously voted to release the Democrats’ “nuh uh” memo in response to last week’s released Nunes’s memo. Nunes will release another memo after that and he and Schiff will continue this exciting game of Classified Intel Connect Four over the next year.
The panel’s action sets up a clash with Trump, who has five days to review the request to release the document.
Democrats had pushed to have it published after Republicans voted along party lines to declassify their own memo over objections by the FBI and Justice Department.
Trump had strongly backed the release of the Republican memo last week. Should Trump refuse to declassify the Democratic version, a standoff between the White House and Democrats could follow.
Republicans “found themselves in an insupportable position when they released a misleading memo and refused to release the Democratic response, so I think they were compelled to take the action they did today,” Schiff said.
I’m not really in the prediction business, as I’m not privy to any insider knowledge or especially smart. But I’m going to do it this time because I think I know what’s going on here and what I do if I were in Schiff’s position.
The GOP memo was 4 pages. The Democrat version will be 10 pages. There’s obviously a lot more in it, and Schiff actually did read the FISA application. As a reminder, only one Congressman from each party could review the application and Nunes (being that he’s not a lawyer) had Gowdy review it on his behalf. Schiff is a former US Attorney so he was perfectly qualified to review it himself. I don’t hold this against Nunes, but I’m sure Schiff will make a big deal out of it, because he’s a devious bastard.
I’m a devious bastard too, so if I were Schiff, I would load up my memo with as much classified intelligence as possible. I’d put stuff in there from when Carter Page was under investigation from years before the election, detailing the surveillance methods used, identify sources, and everything. I’d get the most red-hot intelligence I had from the FISA applications and anything else and fill up whole pages of my memo with it.
Once the memo gets to the FBI, they’re naturally going to protest and insist that all of this be redacted. Here’s the ingenious part. If Trump listens to the FBI and accepts their redactions, then Schiff will accuse him of obstructing. After all, Schiff will say, Trump was willing to release the GOP memo even though the FBI protested. It doesn’t really matter that the GOP memo didn’t have anything in it whatsoever that could endanger national security, the media said it did and so Schiff could put whatever he wanted into his memo and point to a single black box as proof that Trump is selectively releasing information for his own purposes.
If the FBI protests (and I think they will) and Trump releases the memo unredacted anyway, it will mean that he’s endangering national security and compromising Mueller’s investigation. Either way, the condition in which the memo is released is going to be used to damage Trump. It’s brilliant, honestly.
Trump can either release a memo with several pages blacked out or reject the whole thing, meaning that he’s “hiding something”, as Schiff will claim, or he can release an uncut memo that makes him look bad, either because he ignored the FBI again or the information seems damaging or both. Schiff would appear to win either way.
Well then, what’s Trump going to do? I can’t predict it. I never know what he’s going to do because he never does anything I would do.
If I had to guess, I’d say that he’ll probably redact the shit out of the memo and then release it. He might even redact more than the FBI asks for. Reason being that Trump doesn’t seem to much care about playing fair. It’s totally immaterial to him that the GOP memo was fully unredacted. He’s not going to get any approval from the Democrats by releasing what they want released, so why bother?
Instead, he can redact away and then I guess he could start demanding that the FISA applications on Carter Page be declassified, knowing full well that it isn’t going to go anywhere. He could go for a “I’m all for transparency, so I call on the FBI and DOJ to make this intelligence declassified” high road. Will it work? Probably. It’s the better choice, from my point of view.
But again, I don’t claim to know what to expect from the President. Whatever he chooses, I’m willing to bet that the Democrats and their media allies will already have their talking points ready according to which of the two possible scenarios they are clearly expecting to unfold.
This is relevant and I don’t think we need another post on the topic. Everyone appreciates that, I’m sure.
“We’re not going to make any revisions to it. The only question is what redactions will be made. And obviously we’d like to keep those to a minimum,” Schiff told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
“The White House has a different interest. I think their interest is in redacting anything that doesn’t reflect well on the White House,” the top Democrat on the House intel panel added.
My interpretation is that Schiff wants to challenge both Nunes and Grassley’s conclusions and still get to score one on Trump by having portions of the memo blacked-out.
For the Democrat Memo to mean anything beyond that and effectively counter what Nunes and Grassley put out, it has to show that the allegations in the Steele Dossier and Steele’s own credibility were not key to obtaining or extending the FISA warrant against Carter Page.
Problem is that Schiff hasn’t said that in any of his tweets, op-eds, or television appearances that I know of. His main arguments against the Nunes Memo are that it was partisan and reckless. I don’t have a problem with him calling it partisan, but it wasn’t reckless. He also claimed that it has “material omissions of fact”. I’m guessing he’s implying that there was much more evidence that Page was a foreign spy than the dossier that would have guaranteed approval of a FISA warrant, but he hasn’t really said so publicly.
It’s not certain that Trump will approve the release of even a redacted Democrat Memo. He could say that he’s going to wait until the underlying intelligence is declassified and I still say that’s his best option.
But if the Schiff memo comes out, the one thing I’m going to look for is a firm statement that the FISA warrant would have been obtained with or without Steele’s credibilty and dossier information. If that isn’t there, the Nunes Memo stands.
What Schiff can do that matters to Democrats is use the Democrat memo to justify the overall Russia investigation and ignore Nunes’s claim that the FISA process itself was abused. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
The DNC hacking and Wikileaks release doesn’t have anything to do with Page. Trump publicly asking Russia to release Hillary’s emails isn’t about Page. Manafort hasn’t been charged with anything that you can tie to Page. Not Papadapalous either. He did what he did independently. Flynn got indicted for mistatements as to what he said to the Russian ambassador, who was being lawfully monitored under circumstances unrelated to Page.
Schiff could take all of that and at least say, “Look, the Russia investigation is legitimate. We can’t let Rosenstein and Mueller get fired because of what Republicans are saying the FBI and DOJ did to Page.”
And he’d be right.
The Steele Dossier is one piece of the overall Russia investigation. A finding that the FBI and DOJ behaved unlawfully or at least unethically should not invalidate the rest. But it too needs to be investigated. It has to be taken seriously because if the FBI and DOJ are accused of applying sloppy and illicit methods to violate the rights of an American citizen, somebody has to be held accountable or the FBI and DOJ’s names need to be cleared. This is in the national interest.
So if you need the Schiff memo to protect and justify Mueller’s investigation, I’m good with it. Neither Nunes or Grassley were trying to get rid of Mueller with their memos anyway. You can say I’m wrong, but nothing in the memos accomplishes that, as I’ve been saying. Just understand that I don’t think Schiff has anything that contradicts what Nunes and Grassley have said.