The controversial four-page memo about the Trump-Russia investigation drafted by pro-Trump stooge Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was released unredacted to the public today and, as predicted, it’s a con-job from start to finish. It alleges that FBI and Department of Justice officials targeted Trump adviser Carter Page for surveillance based on a political vendetta, evidenced by spurious links between the bureau and the Steele Dossier, along with the Democrats and at least one member of Congress.
We’ve seen this form of trickery before. As I’ve been suggesting here and on my podcast, the Nunes Memo exploits the complexities of the process for attaining a Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) warrant for conducting surveillance on American citizens, in this case Carter Page. In this regard, the memo is more noteworthy for what it left out than what it includes. Let’s dig in.
1) It began with George, not Steele. The memo explicitly says in section five that in July, 2016, Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos, not the Steele Dossier, triggered the FBI to launch a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign for conspiring with Russian operatives to interfere with the election. Quoting the memo: “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok.” What else is there to say?
2) The memo debunks itself. The memo goes to great lengths to make it seem as if the entire FBI probe, and hence the Mueller investigation, is based solely on the dossier compiled by British intelligence official, Christopher Steele. Clearly, the Papadopoulos section on the very last page proves this to be inaccurate (see #1).
3) “Salacious and unverified.” Speaking of the dossier, the memo depends greatly on readers assuming the Steele Dossier has been disproved. It hasn’t been. Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said publicly that his team was able to corroborate much of the dossier. The memo doesn’t include Burr’s conclusion. Ultimately, “salacious and unverified” doesn’t mean “false.”
4) Peter Strzok. The memo perpetuates the conspiracy theory that Peter Strzok, an FBI agent whose text messages included negative remarks about Trump, was investigating Trump due to Strzok’s politics. But, once again, the memo leaves out any mention of Strzok criticizing Hillary Clinton and other candidates. Why? The answer is obvious. The memo also fails to mention that Strzok helped draft the infamous Comey letter, released just before the election and which helped push Trump over the top.
5) Steele and the media. Nunes writes: “Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality…” That’s rich. The entire Nunes Memo is a violation of source handling, given that it exposes sources and methods, according to the FBI.
6) “Essential part.” The first sentence in section one of the memo describes the Steele Dossier as an “essential part” of the FISA application for conducting surveillance on Carter Page. The word “part” suggests there are, naturally, other parts. What was the extent of this other evidence? Nunes doesn’t say. Once again, it’s all about what was left out of the memo. In this case, Nunes refuses to tell us what other evidence was presented against Page. He also fails to tell us what new information was collected on Page via the FBI’s surveillance when the bureau renewed the FISA applications every 90 days. In other words, the FBI had to show the FISA court it was collecting valuable information from its surveillance in order to continue targeting Page. Nunes refuses to reveal these details, and I think we all know why.
7) The McCabe Quote. The memo suggests outgoing FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told Congress there would be no surveillance of Page were it not for the inclusion of the Steele Dossier in the FISA application. This is highly misleading. Shocker. The memo says that McCabe, in a December hearing, told Congress “that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.” Trumpers are insisting this means that McCabe admitted to Congress that the Steele Dossier was the basis for the FISA application. However, earlier in the memo, we learned that the dossier was only a “part” of the FISA application (see #6 above). Also, Nunes is likely mischaracterizing McCabe’s quote. I believe McCabe meant that the FBI had to include the dossier since some of it was corroborated, and because it was “part” (quoting Nunes) of the evidence against Page — not that it was the end-all-be-all of the FISA application. This misleading line was repeated by Donald Trump Junior today, as well as Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.). I confronted Zeldin to produce the actual McCabe quote in-context and, as of this writing, he hasn’t responded.
On top of all that, two sources told national security journalist Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast that the McCabe paraphrasing is 100 percent wrong.
8) Politics and law enforcement. The point of the memo is to suggest political motivations guided the pursuit of Page and, hence, Trump. So, if politics and law enforcement aren’t allowed to mix, then Joe Arpaio and Sheriff David Clarke are in serious trouble if they arrested any Democrats.
9) The Free Beacon? Hello? The memo makes a huge deal out of the fact that the DNC picked up the financing of Fusion GPS’s and Steele’s work, but there’s not a single mention in the memo about how the process was originally launched and financed by the Washington Free Beacon, a Republican news outlet.
10) Page is Trump and Trump is Page. The Trump White House has, for about a year, distanced itself from Carter Page. But now, suddenly, Page is the poster boy for the persecution of Trump. So, he’s an important figure in the Trump campaign now? Wow, thanks for telling us, Mr. Nunes. Big help.
There is, of course, much more to say about the memo and the repercussions of it, but these are the most glaring problems with a deeply problematic document. The Democratic memo will likely repeat much of what I’ve written here, but with much more detail. Meanwhile, you can rest assured knowing this is nothing but smoke-and-mirrors intended to dupe the easily-led automatons who watch Fox News. No one else will be fooled by this piece of shit.