There can no longer be any doubt that we now have a propaganda presidency, in collusion with Republican leaders in Congress who care more about protecting Donald Trump than America’s security and institutions.
As soon as Friday and with the blessing of the White House, the House Intelligence Committee is expected to release the infamous memo attacking the FBI for its handling of the Russia and Hillary Clinton email investigations.
Two Californians are playing leading roles in this memo melodrama – Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare, a hero to Trump supporters who has used his perch as chairman of the Intelligence Committee to defend the president, and Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the committee and chief nemesis to Nunes.
This is a historically irresponsible and political use of classified intelligence, and it ignores unusual warnings from the FBI and the Justice Department. The FBI says it has “grave concerns” that the memo isn’t accurate, while the Justice Department says it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without adequate review for possible risk to intelligence gathering and ongoing investigations.
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Yet that isn’t stopping Trump and his Republican acolytes. The only question appears to be how much, if any, of the four-page memo the White House agrees to black out due to national security concerns before returning it to the House for public release.
The memo is clearly the latest attempt to spin conspiracy theories about the FBI and to discredit and weaken special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his top aides.
On Monday, when the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the memo, there was also the early retirement of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe – a target of Trump and the latest official involved in the Russia probe to be demoted, dismissed or to depart. There are good reasons to be concerned that the memo’s release could lead to the replacement of FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom Trump appointed after firing James Comey, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller, with officials even more loyal to Trump.
Adding another layer of political intrigue and bitter partisanship, Schiff claimed late Wednesday that the memo sent to the White House had substantive changes from the version the committee voted to release.
Nunes says only grammatical and other minor tweaks were made. Earlier, he dismissed the warnings from law enforcement: “Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies.”
Given his track record, we trust our top law enforcement officials far more than Nunes. In fact, there’s ample cause to back the call Thursday by top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco for Nunes to be removed as chairman of the committee. So far, House Speaker Paul Ryan is sticking by Nunes and supporting the memo’s release.
Yes, Americans should want transparency in government, but the disclosure of misleading classified information isn’t good for the public. And yes, our elected representatives in Congress should oversee law enforcement and make sure it isn’t overstepping on surveillance of Americans. But selective and partisan oversight isn’t fair or helpful.
At a policy retreat Thursday with congressional Republicans, Trump shamelessly said that they believe in the rule of law and support law enforcement.
How can that be true when they’re making such a production out of this memo?