By Joshua Cropanzano || Contributing Writer
On Friday, House Republicans released the highly controversial ‘Nunes memo,’ claiming it detailed bias against Donald Trump by the F.B.I. In the days before the release, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) tweeted that the memo would reveal a conspiracy “worse than Watergate.” To summarize, the Nunes memo revealed that the F.B.I. was aware that Christopher Steele, a former British spy, was working for Fusion GPS, a firm hired by the DNC to investigate Trump, and that Mr. Steele was personally inclined against Trump, stating it was “his mission” to prevent a Trump presidency. Using information turned over by Christopher Steele, and possibly other information which was not released, the F.B.I. submitted a request to survey Carter Page, a then-Trump aide, on the grounds that he was colluding with the Russians to swing the election. Indeed, it appears that Carter Page had been in contact with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013. Republicans allege that the material Steele turned over was not sufficient to justify surveillance and that Mr. Steele’s limited assertions provided the basis for the Russian investigation. However, the memo lacks evidence which would prove that the Russian investigation was fabricated as a means of slandering Trump’s administration or that the surveillance of Carter Page was used with the intent of gaining information that could be used against Donald Trump’s campaign. House Democrats have stated that the Nunes memo lacks authenticity because of dangerous omissions and inaccuracies, although the public is not yet aware of the nature of these.
The F.B.I. did inform the FISA court that the information used to open this surveillance may have come from a politically motivated source, although it did not specifically clarify that this information came from a man funded indirectly by the Democratic National Convention. Additionally, it is not clear how crucial the information submitted by Mr. Steele was in the FISA court decision. The Nunes memo claims that McCabe said no surveilance would have been approved without Steele, but insiders claim that this is a distortion of the truth and a misrepresentation of McCabe’s statements. It is entirely possible that further evidence, which the public is unaware of at this time, was used. Indeed, the Democrats attempted to release their own “Democratic Memo,” but the Republican-led Congress did not approve their request.
What is known is that the surveillance was re-approved many times. In order to prevent abusive surveillance of American citizens, FISA warrants must be approved and then re-approved every six months. In total, Comey and Yates – both of which Trump later fired – approved the warrant initially. At various points Dana Boente, McCabe, and Rod Rosenstein re-approved the surveillance. McCabe stepped down last week amid pressure from the administration and Rosenstein was the one who approved Mueller’s investigation in the first place. If this memo does invalidate the Russian investigation, it would also prove Rosenstein to be working against Trump politically and justify his removal. Replacing Rosenstein, then, would theoretically give Trump additional leverage over Mueller and his investigation. When asked if he still had confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Trump responded with, “You figure that one out.” Figure it out indeed, for the political intrigue in the administration is far from over.
First-year Joshua Cropanzano is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.