"The Memo" is out and the reactions are unfolding in entirely predictable patterns.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, released his short memo today after the White House agreed to its declassification. The document claims that the FBI withheld from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the "Steele Dossier," used as justification to snoop on former Donald Trump adviser Carter Page, was funded by Democratic Party sources and pushed by FBI officials with an agenda against Trump. (Read it all here.)
What are major political players saying? Pretty much what you would have predicted.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calls the memo "partisan spin" and says its release is reckless and will help Russia. Yet she doesn't actually counter any of the claims in the memo itself:
.@realDonaldTrump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing Nunes' unredacted, classified memo. His decision undermines our national security and is a bouquet to his friend Putin. pic.twitter.com/kdUgIrCE6l
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) February 2, 2018
There are some variations in responses among Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), no friend of Trump's, does not want the Nunes memo to threaten the investigation of whether Russia colluded with members of Trump's campaign during the election outcomes. McCain, you may recall, might have played a major role in the spread of the contents of the Steele Dossier:
The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests—no party's, no president's, only Putin's. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia's ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation's elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin's job for him.
As for the Republicans who favor the memo's release, I've been blasting some of them for complaining about secret surveillance when it's connected to Trump while explicitly reauthorizing the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments to allow the feds to secretly snoop on American citizens.
But some Republican lawmakers, like Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), have been philosophically consistent. This tweet may sound like what we've been hearing from other Trump supporters…
So, there it is. The FBI took an unverified political dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, and they used it as a central piece in their request to get a warrant for spying on American citizens and political opponents in the Trump campaign.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) February 2, 2018
…but Meadows, as a member of the House Freedom Caucus, supported reforms to the FISA amendments that would have put tighter restrictions on using secret surveillance of American citizens. He was overruled by some other Republicans, who now are also acting outraged about the contents of the memo. Unfortunately, those hypocritical politicians end up amplifying those who see this whole thing as a partisan fight intended to either protect or destroy the president. But unlike a lot of the Republicans, Meadows understands this is a bigger issue than just snooping on people close to the president:
Last point: If you remember anything from this news cycle, remember: your right as an American to privacy from your government spying on you is critical. It is foundational to who we are as a Republic. Never take that right for granted, no matter the political party you belong to
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) February 2, 2018
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who tried to organize a filibuster to stop FISA from being reauthorized without reforms, applauded the memo's release for similar reasons:
While I applaud the release of this memo, I also call for Congress to take immediate action to help prevent such behavior in the future. It is imperative it start by listening to Americans who have expressed outrage over its disregard for the Fourth Amendment and reexamining the powers it reauthorized right before we learned of the memo. Continuing to ignore the Constitution will only guarantee that others fall victim to government abusing its domestic surveillance powers.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) who attempted to get suveillance reform through the House and failed, has a like-minded thread of tweets about getting overruled by establishment pols on both sides of the aisle.
Then there's the question of just how accurate Nunes' memo actually is. RedState questions Nunes' claim that then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the whole Steele dossier was "salacious and unverified." That doesn't seem to accurately reflect what Comey said, which is that parts of the dossier were unverified and perhaps parts were.
Speaking of which, here's how Comey himself responded:
That's it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
Turning our attention to what happens next: The Democrats produced their own memo describing how they interpret the warrant application process for this whole investigation. They'd like it to be declassified and released too. When House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) defended the release of the Nunes memo today, he also showed support for releasing the Democratic Party's analysis. His spokesperson told The Hill, "The speaker is in favor of greater transparency. If it is scrubbed to ensure it does not reveal sources and methods of our intelligence gathering, the speaker supports the release of the Democrats' memo."
Beyond that, if we want to see who's really committed to transparency, watch to see who wants to declassify and release all the underlying warrant application information that was submitted in the first place, rather than just relying on partisan interpretations.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is no fan of Trump's, but it's one of the major civil liberties groups concerned about unwarranted FBI surveillance of Americans. And in the wake of the Nunes memo, it wants more information to come out. From Christopher Anders, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office:
Rather than one side or the other cherry-picking facts, all Americans deserve to see all of the facts, including both the minority report and the underlying documents. The goal should be more transparency, not less, particularly when a congressional committee chairman makes serious charges of abuse but does not provide the facts to either prove the charges or allow Americans to make up our own minds.
And one last response, just for the eyerolls. The same Arizona congressman (Rep. Paul Gosar) who wanted capitol police to arrest any illegal immigrants who might have shown up at Trump's State of the Union Address thinks the Nunes memo is evidence of treason:
My full statement on the declassified memo: pic.twitter.com/eRo6ugpWQ9
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) February 2, 2018