President Trump has decided that he will not release to the public the Democratic memo drafted by the House Intelligence Committee. The president states that he has concerns over information in the memo which reveals sources and methods which the intelligence community uses to gather information, concerns which were echoed by the FBI. Because of this, President Trump has decided to remand the memo back to the House Intelligence Committee so that they can re-do it and “send back in proper form.”
The White House previously said that Trump would release the Democratic memo “soon” and top Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, went on record saying that they would like the memo to be released as well. Because of this, many people expected the memo to be released, albeit with some redactions.
However, this comes as no surprise to some pundits who theorized that the president would be blatant in his efforts to prevent the release of the memo, keeping in line with the administration’s penchant for shutting down opposing views. Indeed, the Democratic memo is allegedly a point-for-point rebuttal of the Republican memo which was released on February 2, and thus poses a danger to the White House’s continuing narrative that the FBI is biased against the president.
To bolster the president’s stance, the White House attached a letter by White House Counsel Don McGahn, explaining the president’s decision to withhold the memo.
“Although the President is inclined to declassify the February 5th Memorandum, because the Memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages, he is unable to do so at this time,” said the White House counsel in the letter.
The White House is also relying on the professional opinions of the FBI and DOJ, who stated that the Democratic memo contained information regarding sources and methods which could affect national security and thus should be redacted. This, of course, is what was expected to happen after the release of the Nunez memo. To put it simply, the Nunez memo stated that the FBI used the Democrat-funded Michael Steele dossier to convince a FISA court to wiretap former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. The memo insinuated that both the wiretap and the entire Russia probe were invalid because the FBI did not tell the FISA court that the Steele Dossier was funded by the DNC and Hillary Clinton. These allegations of bias fail for the following reasons: (1) the Steele Dossier was only one piece of evidence submitted to the FISA court for the wiretap, (2) the FBI included a footnote in the FISA application which stated that the Steele Dossier was political in nature, and (3) this memo cannot disprove the overall Russia investigation.
In order to obtain a FISA wiretap warrant, an independent federal judge must review all of the evidence presented and decide if there is probable cause to issue a secret wiretap. Many experts agree, there is no way a FISA court judge would issue a wiretap based solely on the Steele Dossier, which they knew was political. So in order to rebut the Nunez memo, Democrats, or anyone attempting to disprove the memo, must reveal the rest of the evidence used in the FISA probable cause hearting, which is classified information. In fact, the FBI itself urged against the release of the Nunez memo specifically because in order to correct the memo’s allegations of bias, one would have to disclose other sources and methods of information which the FBI used in order to gain the FISA warrant.
President Trump did not listen to the FBI when it came to releasing the Nunez memo, but he did when it regards the Democratic memo. It’s easy to guess why: the White House and its supporters only want their point of view out in the public in order to discredit the FBI. If transparency and oversight were the true goals of the Nunez memo, there would be no reason to release the Nunez memo before the Democratic memo. While the Democratic memo had not gone through the process of being vetted by the time the Republican memo was released, the House Intelligence Committee could have easily held back in releasing the Nunez memo until the Democratic memo was approved. However, the Nunez memo was released prematurely, in a clear attempt to control the dialogue and mislead the public.
The campaign to discredit the FBI seems to be motivated for a disdain of the Russia probe as a whole. While the president would certainly want the Nunez memo to discredit the entire Russia investigation, the facts don’t support that desire. Even if the wiretap is proven to be improperly obtained, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has a litany of other sources to use in order to move forward with the Russia probe, including information from Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, as well as other information not available to the public. Simply said, there is still a Russia probe without this wiretap and there is still a Russia probe without Carter Page.
While Devin Nunez and Trump-supporting Representatives stand by the memo and reverberate allegations of FBI bias, the public isn’t that convinced. According to a Martist Poll released on Friday, two-thirds of the American public would trust the FBI over Donald Trump should the two disagree. While this bodes well for the federal law enforcement institution, the White House shows no signs of relenting on its accusations, so only time will tell if these law enforcement institutions can prevail over the U.S. president.