Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Devin Nunes and the rest of Team Treason on Friday (2/2) released their much-hyped memo … and, as a service to those of you who haven’t had time to read it (it is, after all, a whopping three-and-a-half pages), I’ve gone ahead and worked up this summary:
Yes, we did some treason, but one of the guys who caught us doing the treason was biased against us because he doesn’t like people who commit treason, and the people who paid the people who paid him to investigate us didn’t like us either, so the evidence of our treason must be ignored.”
Their argument — which, I swear to you, really is that convoluted and moronic — is tantamount to a philanderer claiming that the pictures of him naked in a hotel room with someone other than his spouse should not be admissible as evidence of adultery in his divorce proceedings because the private investigator who took them had a known bias against cheaters and was hired by the philanderer’s soon-to-be ex-wife.
The impropriety of Nunes releasing to the public a memo containing classified information that he cherrypicked specifically to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation is underscored by the fact that Nunes, a member of Trump’s transition team, early last year was forced to recuse himself from the investigation after participating in a Trump Administration stunt that hinged upon him announcing with mock outrage during a press conference at the White House that American intelligence officials may have “incidentally picked up communications of Trump transition team members” while monitoring foreign nationals.
For publicly divulging that classified information, Nunes subsequently became the focus of a House Ethics Committee investigation, a development that prompted his aforementioned recusal. He since has claimed that the committee cleared him of any wrongdoing, but, according to a recent report in The Atlantic, the investigation actually was closed because the committee was “never able to obtain or review the classified information at the heart of the inquiry.”
As if all of that should not have been enough to permanently preclude Nunes from ever again being allowed anywhere near the House’s Trump-Russia investigation, there also is this to consider:
46) Look who else was in that very meeting w/ Flynn & Turkish officials – Devin Nunes! h/t @EmmaLee05733408 pic.twitter.com/NFrrjTpV5L
— T. R. Ramachandran (@yottapoint) March 25, 2017
Yes, that’s right: Nunes reportedly was invited by recently convicted felon and former Trump Administration National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to attend a Trump Hotel breakfast meeting with a Turkish official just prior to Trump’s inauguration — the same Michael Flynn whose potential crimes allegedly include a plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident on behalf of the Turkish government in exchange for $15 million.
Given his involvement with Flynn and his role on the Trump transition team in general, it is entirely possible, if not highly likely, that Nunes himself is a target of Mueller’s investigation … which would explain why the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been so comically blatant in his efforts to impede his own committee’s investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal, and to undermine the other investigations into the matter.
And yet, despite Nunes’ obvious conflicts of interest, House Speaker Paul Ryan — the man who has the final say in anything and everything Nunes has done to disrupt the Trump-Russia investigation — continues to grant Nunes free reign to foment public distrust of the Justice Department for purely political reasons. It’s enough to make you wonder what Ryan and his feckless GOP cohorts are hiding.
Of course, among its many failures, Nunes’ memo — which argues that American intelligence officials should not have been granted a FISA warrant to surveil Trump-campaign foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — most spectacularly fails to acknowledge that the intelligence gathered by monitoring Page’s communications apparently was significant enough to convince multiple federal judges to repeatedly renew said warrant.
Since its release on Friday, the memo has been claimed by both sides of the aisle as having bolstered their own disparate arguments, with Democrats (rightly) pointing out that it is a blatant, shameful and partisan bid to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation, and Republicans (wrongly) claiming it is a silver bullet that should absolve Trump and company of any and all wrongdoing.
The Republican perspective is most hysterically demonstrated by people like Sean Hannity:
— Media Matters (@mmfa) February 3, 2018
Sean, a college dropout whose in-depth knowledge of the judicial system is on full display here, somehow is oblivious to the fact that the reason “nobody else will say this” is because it is perhaps the single stupidest fucking thing a human being has ever said out loud, particularly when one considers that a.) Flynn already has pleaded “guilty” to a felony and has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, b.) the evidence against Manafort is staggering, and c.) the Nunes memo has nothing at all to do with the charges leveled against Flynn and Manafort. But, hey, you do you, Sean.
Meanwhile, as pundits and politicians argue over the memo’s merits — or, more accurately, its total lack thereof — it is worth noting the actions of everyone’s favorite Slytherin, Rep. Trey Gowdy, to whom Nunes delegated the task of reviewing the classified FISA-warrant applications upon which the memo was based. (Yes, you read that correctly: Despite authoring the memo excoriating the Justice Department’s acquisition of the FISA warrants that allowed it to surveil Page, Nunes himself never personally viewed the underlying materials. Really.)
After viewing the FISA applications, Gowdy, a former prosecutor best known for heading up the Benghazi investigation — which is to say, a man not known for shying away from partisan fuckery — reportedly “pressured” Nunes to share his memo with the FBI and DOJ prior to its release … a curious detail that leads me to believe that, whatever it was Gowdy saw in those FISA applications, it gave him pause about Nunes’ portrayal of the documents.
Next, Gowdy — a clearly ambitious, relatively young congressman who recently landed a coveted chairmanship on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — abruptly and unexpectedly announced that he would not run for re-election later this year. Granted, he is far from alone in terms of Republican congresspeople fleeing the sinking Trumptanic, but he does stand alone as the only one of them to have personally reviewed the FISA materials central to the Trump-Russia investigation … which makes all the more striking what he did next:
As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not – in any way – discredit his investigation.
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) February 2, 2018
With that tweet, Gowdy thoroughly undercut the memo’s primary purpose and placed himself in direct opposition to Trump, who, in his uniquely semi-literate fashion, interpreted the memo in an entirely different way:
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2018
To review: Upon viewing classified evidence of intelligence gathering in the Trump-Russia probe, Gowdy:
- told Nunes to slow his roll.
- announced “I’m out of here.”
- castrated the memo by giving the Mueller probe a full-throated endorsement.
Gowdy’s behavior seems to address the central question that Nunes’ memo and those touting its supposed virtues completely neglect to answer, and that is: Regardless of the Republican party’s opinion about the manner in which critical evidence pertaining to the Trump-Russia investigation was obtained, what exactly does that evidence show?
Apparently, it showed Gowdy that it’s time to head for the exit.