I have to admit that trying to follow the memo/dossier/FISA warrants narrative has been at best a labyrinth.
Let’s start with the memo. Its thesis, as far as I can determine, is that Nunes, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is accusing the Department of Justice and the FBI of corruption regarding the issuing of FISA warrants (issued by a special court) to surveil American citizen Carter Page (starting as far back as 2013) who had self-identified as an ally of Russia. The purpose of the warrants — there were four, signed off by a judge every 90 days, each requiring specific new information — was to determine whether Page was acting as an agent for Russia.
What Nunes and staff did was conflate those warrants with a dossier, based on extensive research, written by a highly regarded British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who was an expert on Russia. This dossier was intended to be opposition research initially paid for by the anti-Trump Republicans and then underwritten by the Democrats.
The dossier was never intended to trigger any surveillance. It had instead been focused on Trump, his finances as they pertained to Russia. It did, at least in its first section, contain salacious information about Trump in Russia, well before he declared his candidacy for president. As Steele delved deeper, he found increasing evidence not only of Russian interference in the 2016 election but a connection between the Trump campaign and the Russians, to the point where he became alarmed.
Though Nunes argued that this dossier played a role in the application by the FBI for the Page warrants, it did not, nor did the agency attempt to distort the FISA applications. It was Nunes' purpose to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department as well as casting doubt over the entire Mueller investigation into the Russians and the Trump campaign. But then Nunes has shilled for Trump before and was a member of his transition team.
Of course the Democrats produced a minority report, which they requested be released when the Republicans released the Nunes memo. On Friday, President Trump blocked its release.
The point of this convoluted story is to grasp the extraordinary and chilling lengths to which the Republicans will go to protect Trump and conceal the truth from the nation. Clearly, the Republicans have become enablers of this administration, choosing to remain cravenly silent regarding what the White House continues to say and do.
And the distractions/crises keep emanating from Team Trump, requiring anyone watching to suspend his or her disbelief. Meanwhile, dereliction of duty and malfeasance thread their way through this White House.
Consider the following:
The president travels in the conspiracy lane. You need only reach back to the Birther movement. Trump/Nunes et al. are selling the idea that the FBI and Department of Justice represent a vast “Deep State” conspiracy to bring down Trump (just the belief that there is something called the “Deep State” is jarring, if not tin-foil-hat territory). How about Mrs. Plum in the library with a candlestick?
Trump recently referred to the Democrats as “un-American” and “treasonous” for not standing and cheering him during the State of the Union. Is he accusing them of refusing to take a knee before the monarch?
When asked recently about North Korea and its nuclear program, he said, “we have run out of road.” What does that metaphor mean? That we are preparing to unilaterally attack Kim Jong Un? With 20 million South Koreans just 45 miles to the south, what road?
Trump is planning a humongous military parade this summer down Pennsylvania Avenue at an estimated cost of $22 million.
Not to forget that in a discussion of immigration he referred to Haiti and Africa as s---hole countries.
Trump’s legal team is now floating the idea of Trump refusing to meet with Mueller. Of course, Trump can be subpoenaed to give testimony under oath to a grand jury. If he says no it will trigger a constitutional crisis.
And so the list could go on.
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.