Saturday, February 3, 2018
From the Deep State To the Deep End
Former FBI Director James Comey summed it up best: "That's it?"
Seriously, this is what Republicans were hanging their hats on? Three and a half pages of hysteria over what amounts to nothing substantive. The argument that Devin Nunes was attempting to make - that the FISA warrant the FBI obtained on Carter Page was politically motivated, and that without it the whole Russia investigation would never have gotten off the ground - fell flat on its face.
Let's take it step by step.
1. The Steele Dossier that Nunes cites in the memo as being financed by the Clinton campaign was originally compiled by a company called Fusion GPS at the behest of a conservative website being funded by a major donor to then Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio for the expressed purpose of collecting damaging information on Donald Trump. Once Trump secured the nomination, Fusion GPS was then hired by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, but for some unknown reason they never used any of the information they had on Trump. Whether it was politically motivated or not, some of the allegations that Steele makes in the Dossier have been corroborated, a fact Nunes failed to disclose in his memo.
2. Nunes' claim that the Dossier was the primary reason the FISA warrant was granted is dubious at best. No FISA judge would grant a warrant based solely on one source. The fact that the memo admits the warrant was renewed three times indicates that the FBI must've had physical evidence that they would've been required to turn over to the Court to maintain the warrant. Another omission by Nunes.
3. As Nunes' own memo stated, the FBI started its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election a full four months before the FISA warrant on Page was granted. In fact, it was information the Bureau had obtained about George Papadopoulos - another Trump campaign advisor - that triggered the investigation in the first place. Page himself had been a subject of interest for the FBI going all the way back to 2013.
4. Nunes goes out of his way to impugn the integrity of FBI agent Peter Strzok over retrieved text messages that showed bias against Trump; yet he conveniently left out the fact that it was Strzok who drafted the memo that Comey used to reopen the Clinton email server investigation eleven days before the 2016 election. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that up in Chappequa, the Clintons have a much different opinion of Mr Strzok's intentions.
5. The mention of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is the real motive behind this memo. It was Rosenstein who signed off on one of the renewals in the FISA warrant on Page. Last year, Donald Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but was thwarted by one of his attorneys. He now knows he can't fire him directly, but if he could somehow get rid of the man that Mueller reports to - Rosenstein - and appoint a replacement that would either "limit" the scope of Mueller's investigation or get rid of him altogether, that would solve the problem for him. While we still don't know whether Trump would actually be dumb enough to go through with this hair-brained scheme, thanks to Nunes, he now has the excuse he's been looking for.
All this means that if I'm Rod Rosenstein, I'd be very worried about my job right about now. And if I'm Robert Mueller, I'd throw this investigation into high gear as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. Mueller needs to subpoena Trump immediately and get his testimony on record. If there's a case to be made for collusion, obstruction of justice, money laundering, or all of the above, Mueller must make it while he still can. He may not be able to indict Trump, but his report to the Department of Justice will be a public record for future - hopefully Democratic - Congresses to review.
And that's what keeps the GOP up nights. The idea that one day, before he leaves office, Trump may find himself in the same predicament that ensnared Richard Nixon in 1974. That's why Nunes has been frantically searching for anything he can get a hold of to stave off what deep down every Republican knows is coming: the moment where they might have to vote to impeach their own president.
We are now entering a tipping point: a Constitutional crisis now seems inevitable. The only question that remains to be answered is whether this country will survive the ordeal. This isn't Watergate; it's Watergate times a hundred.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Vladimir Putin is laughing his ass off and putting the finishing touches on his plans to interfere with the 2018 midterms.