Some political observers are urging U.S. President Donald Trump to read the so-called FISA abuse memo to the American people during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Even if a reference to the controversial FISA memo is not included in his prepared remarks to a joint session of Congress, Trump has a history of improvising even when delivering a speech from the teleprompter. This would be a very unusual departure even for him, however, thereby making the event must-see TV.
[See updates below]
Although the contents of the four-page summary memo are still classified, GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House claim that its contents are shocking, although that might be hyperbole, and suggest FBI misconduct. The implication is that the Obama administration used the disputed “dirty” Russian dossier as a pretext to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on the Trump campaign. Democrats says that the memo, which is currently under lock and key in the U.S. Capitol but available for review by any House member, distorts or exaggerates what actually happened, and have also put together a counter memo they seek to publish, although the latter is as-yet unseen by the committee. According to investigative journalist Sara Carter, 100-plus House members have already read the memo, but of those, only a handful were Democrats.
As reported in October by the Washington Post, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid an opposition research firm about $9 million for the disputed dossier that was compiled by an ex-British intelligence agent with Kremlin contacts. The FBI supposedly also chipped in to some degree.
The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a meeting for today at 5 p.m. Eastern time in which the committee under its chair Devin Nunes may vote to release the memo into the public domain, the Washington Examiner reported. Although under the law he has five days to decide, President Trump has already signaled that he also favors the release of the document, even though the U.S. Justice Department does not, the Hill reported. Interestingly, Monday committee meetings are fairly unusual in Congress since most lawmakers are still traveling back to Washington from their constituencies.
While various documents unfavorable to Trump or his administration have regularly leaked to the New York Times or the Washington Post, the Nunes memo hasn’t.
When the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag was trending on Twitter last week, some leading Democrats even charged that the activity was the result of Russian propaganda rather than grassroots activism. The Daily Beast reported that there is no evidence of social media manipulation.
“But a knowledgeable source says that Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo.”
Ironically perhaps, Trump supporters and others on the right have accused social justice activists of using bots and paid users/trolls to artificially inflate support for various progressive causes.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told CNN that putting the memo into the public domain would “send a message of accountability” to the U.S. intelligence community, a component of which some have described as the Deep State, i.e., a segment of the permanent federal bureaucracy allegedly seeking to undermine or discredit the Trump agenda.
Parenthetically, most, if not all, of the lawyers on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating the Russian government’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election have ties to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
This is also happening within the controversy over a senior FBI agent who participated in both the Clinton and Trump investigations and his anti-Trump text messages sent to another FBI official, a chunk of which may or may not be missing.
Democrats have insisted that the Deep State is just a mere conspiracy theory, while many Republicans or conservatives have responded that the Russia collusion narrative is equally an unfounded conspiracy theory.
Democrats have accused Republicans of disparaging law enforcement, but Republicans have countered that they have leveled criticism of bias against top-level FBI/DOJ officials, and not rank-and-file agents. In other words, “the suits, not the boots.” In one of many examples how Donald Trump has up-ended the political establishment, traditionally the liberal cohort has been suspicious or critical of the intelligence services and law enforcement rather than the GOP.
The status of the FISA abuse memo constitutes a developing story with many moving parts; please check for updates.
Update: Whether this has anything to do with the surveillance abuse memo or not, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is stepping down today, one day after FBI Director Christopher went to Capitol Hill to read the memo for himself. McCabe apparently is using up his remaining vacation time until he becomes eligible for a full government pension. The Washington Free Beacon notes that conflict of interest allegations have emerged about McCabe.
“Trump also has criticized McCabe because his wife, Jill McCabe, a Democrat, ran for a state Senate seat in Virginia and received nearly $500,000 in donations from a political action committee controlled by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.), a close friend and longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The president has accused McCabe of mishandling the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, suggesting the FBI veteran had political motivations not to hurt Clinton’s candidacy.”
Separately, in the clip below, civil liberties advocate and Fox News Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano insists that the FISA memo should have been made public before Congress voted to reauthorize the FISA law. He also argues for the release of all relevant documents related to alleged FBI misconduct.
Further updates: The committee has voted to release the memo.
Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, along with several of his colleagues, is calling on President Trump to release the FISA memeo during the State of the Union “to allow transparency to reign.”