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Dissecting the Nunes Memo – What Difference Does it Make?

You know how when people hype up a comedy movie as extremely funny it ends up ruining the movie for you because your expectations were sky high?  Well, we feel that occurred with the Nunes Memo.

The release of this memo was hyped by both sides with one insinuating the release will vindicate President Trump in the Russia probe and the other making it seem like the release would destroy our constitutional republic.

The Reality

It was blah.

For starters, the memorandum doesn’t vindicate President Trump in the Russia probe or call into question the legitimacy of said probe. Simply reading the memo itself (remember, this was written by a Republican) shows it wasn’t meant to do that.

The memo states, “Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FSC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.” What the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Majority Staff — who authored the memo — are arguing, is that the electronic surveillance of Carter Page was illegitimate and done unlawfully. The Carter Page surveillance, as the memo itself states, started when, “On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC.”

Well…Robert Mueller was appointed “Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and related matters” on May 17, 2017. Thus, even if the claims in the memo turn out to be valid, they still wouldn’t call into question the legitimacy of the Russia probe as a whole, since the surveillance in question was authorized five months after Mueller was appointed.

But what about the Steele Dossier being opposition research and this not being mentioned to the FISA court?

Even if the dossier was a catalyst in Rosenstein’s appointment of a Special Counsel, it doesn’t mean the appointment is illegitimate or unlawful.

In order to appoint a special counsel, the Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, must only determine that the criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and – (a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and (b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter. For the investigation to be warranted, and, as such, allow for the appointment of a Special Counsel, the Attorney General’s guidelines state:

(Bold italics added by FWM for emphasis)

“(1) A general crimes investigation may be initiated by the FBI when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that a federal crime has been, is being, or will be committed. The investigation may be conducted to prevent, solve, and prosecute such criminal activity.
The standard of “reasonable indication” is substantially lower than probable cause. In determining whether there is reasonable indication of a federal criminal violation, a Special Agent may take into account any facts or circumstances that a prudent investigator would consider. However, the standard does require specific facts or circumstances indicating a past, current, or impending violation. There must be an objective, factual basis for initiating the investigation; a mere hunch is insufficient.”

Therefore, the Russia probe is still a go, despite the Nunes memo.

What the memorandum does do is call into question some of the FBI’s actions in getting a FISA warrant against Carter Page. The question that arises is, “Did the FBI knowingly leave out information they knew would cause them to be denied a warrant?” 

Since the Nunes memo is only one side of the story, it’ll be interesting to see if President Trump authorizes the release of the Democratic response. With both partisan memorandums we may be able to piece together if there were any wrongdoings by the FBI. Even though the FBI are the good guys, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check out the situation when there’s information like this, just like we should look into any and all evidence of Russian meddling in elections. 

And finally, the last takeaway is that the Republic is safe from the memo’s release. The American public, despite what politicians think of us, are intelligent enough to understand the memorandum’s claims and to recognize it’s one side of the story. There are also plenty of news organizations out there unbiased enough to help explain what’s going on. Sure, the Executive Branch and the Intelligence Community’s relationship got a little more awkward, but there wasn’t much room for growth in this regard.

In sum, the memorandum doesn’t affect the validity of the Russia probe. It does call into question some actions by the FBI which should be further investigated. But overall, it seems to be nothing more than a he-said-she-said partisan affair (shocker).

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Independent politician on the HPSCI without loyalty to either party who could write a memo telling us what actually happened?

Just a thought…

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