On Friday, President Donald Trump declined to release the Democratic response to the Nunes memo — a memorandum prepared by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are prepared to black out parts of their memo about the FBI’s Russia investigation to ensure there’s no harmful spilling of secrets, then try again to get President Donald Trump to let it come out. A White House aide said he’s confident it will be released once Democrats “clean it up,” the Associated Press reported Monday.
As we wait for that clean-up, the mudslinging continues.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump is putting his personal interest above the country’s in blocking a memo that “completely undermines his claim of vindication” in special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian interests and Russia’s meddling in the election. “The president doesn’t want the public to see the underlying facts,” Schiff said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The White House legislative director, Marc Short, countered that Democrats padded their memo with sensitive information, knowing Trump would stop its release, in an effort to make him look obstructionist. “We’re not afraid of transparency,” Short said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think you’re going to see us release the memo.”
Trump overrode strong Justice Department objections when he declassified a Republican memo alleging an abuse of surveillance powers in the FBI’s Russia investigation. The FBI expressed “grave concerns” about the memo’s accuracy and the Justice Department said in advance that its release, without proper review, would be “extraordinarily reckless.”
But Trump has blocked the Democratic document, which tries to counter the Republican allegations of surveillance excesses. The president has the authority to keep such information under wraps, and exercised it only against the Democrats.
Nunes said if Democrats were intent on making important information public, they should get to work. “Their memo is sitting at the House Intelligence Committee down at the bottom of the Capitol waiting to be redacted,” the California Republican told Fox News. “If they really wanted to get it out, they’d be down there all day yesterday redacting it, getting it back over to the White House so that the public can know what’s in it.”
When we wrote about the Nunes memo last month, it had not yet been released. We found it odd that Rep. Nunes wouldn’t let his Republican counterparts in the Senate see the memo, and we wrote both of Rep. Schiff’s criticism of the memo and the campaign in right-wing media — complete with a Twitter hashtag, #ReleaseTheMemo — to have the memo released.
The Nunes memo has since been released. Frankly, to paraphrase author Gertrude Stein’s line about the demolition of her childhood home in Oakland, Calif., there’s not a lot of there there. The memo is not as damning as Fox News commentators would have had you believe before it was released. But neither is it a “profoundly misleading set of talking points,” as Schiff characterized it before its release. It’s a rather dry timeline of facts that includes an implication that some FBI agents and contractors working for the FBI have political opinions. People who work in law enforcement don’t forfeit the right to have political opinions. We expect them to uphold the law while possessing them.
We believe that President Trump will eventually release a scaled-back version of the Democratic response to the Nunes memo. We also have a strong suspicion that, as with the Nunes memo, it won’t be nearly as damning as Schiff and opponents of the president have led us to believe.
We believe the Democratic response should be released. We’d like it even better if, instead of this nakedly partisan fight — in which right-leaning supporters of the Nunes memo and left-leaning supporters of the as-yet-unseen Democratic response are convinced that the document put out by “our side” is the one telling the truth — we could have the release of the actual reports and documents upon which the memo and the response are based.
Then, we could all decide for ourselves.