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Nunes’s Lead Balloon

Don Rose 6 February 2018 2 Comments

With all the advance brouhaha over “The Memo” about to be released by Congressman Devin Nunes you’d think we were going get the contemporary equivalent of the notorious 18 missing minutes of  Nixon tapes.

   Instead, we got a lead balloon that couldn’t even be slightly inflated by all the hot air coming out of Sean Hannity’s and Donald Trump’s mouths combined.

   Well before it was made public not only were Democrats pointing out its omissions, inconsistencies and half-truths–which by self definition are half lies–but Republican Sen. John McCain was calling it a dangerous attack on the FBI and the Department of Justice. No less a personage than House Speaker Paul Ryan pleaded that it was not a wholesale attack on those instrumentalities of government.


    FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in advance against publishing the memo, which he said was false and contained classified intelligence that could prove damaging to national security.

   Most tellingly, Donald McGahn, the White House counsel who wrote the memo’s cover letter, said that it was purely the product of the House Intelligence Committee–thus distancing the presidency from its contents.

   Immediately after its release the major news media and intelligence analysts began dissecting it like a frog in a high school science class, exposing all its elisions, omissions and half-lies.

   The Saturday New York Times, for example, among other revealing articles and columns, devoted a full page to annotating the entire three-and-a-half page memo. Other publications and all the talk shows carried similar critiques.

   I can’t begin to do justice here to all the analyses, but I can note that the memo clearly failed to show there was insufficient reason for the FISA Court to renew permission to tap Carter Page’s phone and continue months of surveillance of the goofball. Good and sufficient reason was provided by the 300-page application and four Republican-appointed FISA judges okayed it unanimously.

  The memo proved nothing. But Trump, in classical fashion, repeated over and over the big lie that it proved him innocent of collusion and obstruction of justice. It did nothing except provide another distraction.

   It didn’t mention Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, only intimating (falsely) that Page’s civil liberties were violated. It was also intended to provide grounds for firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who originally hired Mueller because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation.

    This was evidence, in Trump’s mind, that the “deep state” was trying to destroy him. Never mind that Sessions, Rosenstein and Wray are all Trump’s Republican appointees. What it really demonstrated is that Trump is in mortal fear of the investigation and willing to throw anyone under the bus (except maybe his family) while destroying the reputations of the FBI, DOJ and the entire intelligence community to save his own backside.

   It won’t. Mueller’s investigation will continue, but because of Trump and his errand boy Nunes–who could be close to an obstruction charge– not only Trumpites but our allied nations will be highly suspicious of those institutions. Yes, it was a lead balloon, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t do real damage when it dropped.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


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