Friday, February 02, 2018

The Paul Ryan-Devin Nunes Memo... Courtesy Of The White House


So what about that stupid Nunes memo? What a joke! I guess the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have ZERO interest in protecting our elections from Putin (or Trump.) This thing is such an embarrassment, but before I get into it, I want to turn to a special editorial that the editorial board of the Washington Post published yesterday evening: A process that tarnishes the House. Hopefully it will follow Paul Ryan around for the rest of his miserable political life. The editorial doesn't address the likelihood that Nunes didn't even write the memo but was given it by the White House. So we'll just go along with that for now.
Discrediting law enforcement is the memo’s transparent purpose and why it has been embraced by President Trump. Written mainly by the staff of Devin Nunes (R-CA), the loose-cannon chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the memo reportedly makes the case that the FBI abused spying authorities as it sought permission to surveil a former Trump adviser. The Justice Department called its potential release, which Mr. Trump reportedly intends to approve, “extraordinarily reckless.” The FBI released its own startling public statement citing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Adam Schiff (CA), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, wrote in a Post op-ed that the Nunes memo “cherry-picks facts, ignores others and smears the FBI and the Justice Department.”

...Ryan bears full responsibility for the deterioration of congressional oversight of intelligence operations. Once a bipartisan responsibility that lawmakers treated soberly-- as they still do in the Senate-- oversight under Mr. Nunes has become another front in Mr. Trump’s assault on the law enforcement institutions investigating the president and his associates. House Republicans are poisoning the committee’s relationship with the intelligence community and distracting from real issues demanding attention.

In all the noise around the memo, it is easy to lose sight of the scary truth that a hostile foreign government attempted to influence the 2016 election and shows every intention of trying again this year. You’d think Mr. Nunes’s committee would be alarmed by this threat to American democracy. Instead, Mr. Nunes, with Mr. Ryan’s aid and comfort, is helping Mr. Trump impede an investigation into these very issues. It is sad to see the speaker allow the House to be tarnished in this way.

Today Trump pushed Congressional Republicans into releasing it, something Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the next head of the House Judiciary Committee where impeachment proceeding again Trump will begin in 2019, pointed out it is nothing more than a partisan "coordinated propaganda effort to discredit, disable and defeat the Russia investigation" by the GOP. John McCain seemed to agree:
"In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond.

"The latest attacks against 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 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 lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him."
Most people see right through the Nunes memo and outside of the far right, no one is taking it seriously. Last week, the NY Times had noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approval of extending surveillance of Russian agent/Trump operative Carter Page was normal procedure that is being turned on it's head to discredit Rosenstein and prepare Trump's base for his dismissal, a prelude to firing Mueller.
The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Democrats who have read the document say Republicans have cherry-picked facts to create a misleading and dangerous narrative. But in their efforts to discredit the inquiry, Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, who served as a Trump foreign policy adviser until September 2016.
Today everyone can read the memo and Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman summed it up perfectly: a joke and a sham... really just a bad joke... "[I]ts contents are almost comically thin in comparison with the great scandal Trump’s media allies have been hyping for weeks and weeks and weeks."

Sargent and Waldman continued that "Up until now, Republicans have been touting this memo as the blockbuster that will bring the entire Russia investigation crashing down. One Trump ally described it as 'worse than Watergate.' Trump had reportedly told friends, as CNN reported, that the memo 'would make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him.' Sean Hannity said the revelations in the memo 'makes Watergate like stealing a Snickers bar from a drugstore'; he told his viewers it constitutes 'the biggest political scandal in American history.'"

Intelligence Committee Democrats, who have been prevented from responding with their own memo using the background materials the GOP supposedly used to write their memo-- which Nunes says he's never read, confirming suspicions that the White House wrote the memo, not Nunes, released a statement:
The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

To understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court-- including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

… The investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and … the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.
Even before it was released, Pelosi demanded that Ryan remove Nunes as chair of the Intelligence Committee. "Nunes'," she wrote, "deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as Chairman, and he must be removed immediately from his position."

I'd like to turn to Pramila Jayapal, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and to Randy Bryce, the charismatic candidate taking on Paul Ryan. First Jayapal: "This is a dangerous and troubling time for our country. The Nunes memo is a misleading, partisan document-- not an intelligence document. It is crafted to undermine any real oversight of this administration and to distract from mountains of evidence suggesting the Trump presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government. Even the president’s hand-picked FBI director has opposed the decision to release the memo.  
“Donald Trump clearly wishes he was a dictator with no checks and balances. He is waging war against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s independent investigation-- and what are Republicans in Congress doing? Doubling down on the president’s apparent obstruction of justice and circling the wagons.

“It is critical that the Judiciary Committee hear from FBI Director Christopher Wray about this disturbing development. Now is the time for all Americans to stand up against this slide into authoritarianism, and to take action to defend against the unraveling of our democracy by the president and his accomplices in Congress.”
And Randy Bryce:
"This is simple: President Trump said he wanted this memo released because it will weaken the investigation into Russia’s attack on our democracy. Speaker Ryan could have stopped the President, but he didn't, he helped him.

This is why our Congress needs more veterans and fewer millionaires. The nation I enlisted for worked to spread democracy and fiercely protected its own. We understood the tremendous sacrifice so many had made to protect our free and fair elections, and we didn’t do anything to risk them. We certainly didn't risk them to satisfy the President's ego or to win a political game.

While damage has been done, we can still work to protect our elections from corruption in the future. I urge Speaker Ryan to immediately call for a vote on legislation introduced several months ago that would protect Special Counsel Mueller's position and enable him to complete his investigation."
One thing I think everyone can probably agree on: change is desperately needed and... well, let's hope we can hold on until November and that Ryan and McConnell don't try doing anything dangerously insane in the lame duck session.

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At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last sentence is the key.

But I ask again, if the Ds get a majority, what will change? Fewer WH-authored smears maybe. But will oversight, in general, improve?

Refer back to the Ds last house majority between 2006-2010. Nothing was fixed. No cheney/bush acts were impeded. And after their one and only FDR congress refused to do anything at all, they were buried in the 2010 election.

The Ds' only hope is that trump and the Rs continue their march toward Nazi Germany .. and voters notice and blindly vote for Ds as the alternative. The Ds on their own offer nothing except "we stink less".

Once the Ds get their majority, their donors will not allow them to do anything progressive. So in 2020 or 2022 at the latest, voters will abandon them again... this time for good, hopefully.

Another 2 or 3 cycles wasted trying to raise the donkey's corpse -- that died in 1982.

As McCain said, we're doing putin's job for him. Rs and Ds both.

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a dictatorship, first you need to destroy government institutions and processes (that once worked, to some extent).

Then you need the populace to blithely accept that destruction... participate in and support it even.

And you cannot have a viable opposition. You either kill them or buy them.

check, check and CHECK!


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