Trump’s latest stunt may be about to blow up in his face

first_imgBut the performance of congressional Republicans on the Sunday shows — and a weekend’s worth of legal analysis taking apart the Nunes effort — together suggest another possibility.The Nunes memo affair may be shaping up as a much bigger fiasco than we even know – so bad, in fact, that it could ultimately undermine Trump’s position even more dramatically than we could have expected.A key conclusion about the Nunes memo reached by legal analysts is that the memo actually confirmed that the FBI’s investigation was launched in July 2016.That’s well in advance of the awarding in October 2016 of a warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump adviser Carter Page due to his suspected links to Russia, based to an indeterminate extent on Democratic-funded research in the “Steele dossier.”The Nunes memo vaguely notes that information gathered on Trump adviser George Papadopoulos is what triggered the FBI inquiry.Papadopoulos revealed in his plea that he had learned of “dirt” collected on Hillary Clinton by the Russians.What’s more, the Nunes memo notes that surveillance warrants were subsequently granted numerous times. As Paul Rosenzweig, a former Whitewater investigator, points out, these could only have been granted if new evidence had demonstrated sufficient grounds for suspicion of Page, meaning “independent reviews” by “separate judges” actually “validated the FBI’s investigation.”If a rebuttal memo from Rep. Adam Schiff is released by the House Intelligence Committee, it is likely to add detail, where possible, filling in this picture of the genesis of the probe.The New York Times reports that the rebuttal will supply “crucial context” to the FBI’s case for getting the warrant.Indeed, Rep. Jim Himes, Conn., the No. 2 Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, hinted at this when he told CNN that the Democratic rebuttal will show that “it is not true” that the warrant “was awarded solely on the basis of the Steele dossier.”In other words, the Schiff memo will likely detail, to the degree that it can, the actual reasons the warrant was granted — and why subsequent warrants were as well.Yes, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee could still vote against releasing the Schiff rebuttal.Trump himself signaled opposition to its release, when he tweeted: Categories: Editorial, OpinionIt is still very possible that President Donald Trump could use the Nunes memo as a pretext to try to quash or constrain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe.Trump tweeted over the weekend that the memo “totally vindicates” his claim that the investigation is a “witch hunt,” which is an absurd lie in every possible respect, but it shows he’s still mulling a move on Mueller. Perhaps their bad faith is bottomless enough to permit them to go here, but the glaring thinness of the Nunes memo may make it politically more risky.In the end, Trump could still use the Nunes memo to hamstring Mueller by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and replacing him with a loyalist to oversee the probe.But this would now have to happen either after the Schiff rebuttal served to reinforce the investigation’s legitimacy, or after Trump suppressed the Schiff rebuttal even though it could further undermine his own rationale for taking such a dramatic step.Trump is shameless enough to do this in either scenario. But it could now be harder for congressional Republicans to go along with it.This would not be the case if not for Nunes’s antics — which Trump backed.Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog for The Washington Post, offering commentary from a liberal perspective.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen? But on the Sunday shows, multiple Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee firmly stated that the Nunes memo should not be used to cast doubt on the integrity of the Mueller probe.This is disingenuous, in that they voted to release the Nunes memo while knowing Trump wants to use it to target Mueller.Still, this signals that some leading congressional Republicans are now reluctant to be associated with Trump’s efforts to undermine his probe.Trump just raised the stakes, in effect directly associating his seeming opposition to releasing the rebuttal with his own efforts to obstruct the investigation.Yes, Trump himself could block the release of the Schiff rebuttal.But the White House itself called for release of the Nunes memo on grounds of “transparency,” and House Speaker Paul Ryan has come out for releasing Schiff’s rebuttal.If Republicans now give cover to Trump thwarting its release, they will be even more overtly associated with his efforts to block the truth from coming out than before.last_img


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