We survived World War Two, the deadliest conflict in world history; we survived the frequently denounced McCarthy Era; we survived the Soviet Union and the darkest days of the Cold War; we survived Watergate; we even survived the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
But will the FBI survive the Nunes memo?
Piece of cake!
Prior to the release of the memo, U.S, Sen. Chris Murphy, up for re-election in 2018, warned that its release might well cripple democracy in the United States: “Attacking the FBI betrays the [law and order] traditions of the Republican Party and, of course, is a threat to democracy, if people lose faith in the highest levels of law enforcement.”
Much earlier, long before the publication of the Nunes memo, a distressed Murphy had sent a memo to the GOP: “Memo to GOP: whenever the great American experiment ends, those that left executive power unchecked will be judged guilty of its undoing.” Murphy’s unchecked “executive power” was a backhanded reference President Donald Trump; no sleight was intended to Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, who was disposed, when he was rebuffed by stiff Congressional opposition, to rule with his pen and phone by means of questionable executive orders.
“By the fall of 2011, after a summer standoff between the two political parties nearly caused a government shutdown,” the New York Times reported in a 2016 review of Obama’s regulatory tropism, “it was clear to Mr. Obama that little hope remained for moving his agenda forward in a Congress controlled by Republicans. Speaking in Las Vegas that October, Mr. Obama expressed disdain for ‘an increasingly dysfunctional Congress’ and pledged: ‘Where they won’t act, I will.’”
Last November, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Murphy announced his concern for Trump’s mental stability: “We are concerned the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapon strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.”
The Trump administration cannot not last beyond the year 2025, thanks to term limits, though it seems clear that Connecticut’s two senators likely would prefer an impeachment before that date. The FBI and the permanent administrative state will have a much longer shelf life. They will survive.
There are few limits to Democrat campaign demagoguery. Democrats attempted to discredit the Nunes memo prior to its publication as ruinous to the FBI.
Post-publication, Blumenthal could not resist mentioning Sen. Joe McCarthy’s demagogic terrorism: “The release of this memo is really reminiscent of the darkest days of the McCarthy era, with character assassinations” Blumenthal fulminated on CNN during an appearance on Alisyn Camerota’s New Day. The memo, Blumenthal insisted, “endangers methods and sources of the intelligence community, and it reflects an effort to distract from the [Robert] Mueller investigation.”
Post publication, Murphy put away his pre-publication fears, insisting that the published memo was a dud. In the post-publication period, Murphy sought to defang the document characterizing it as “garbage evidence.” The memo is a four- page summary of a much larger body of evidence presented to a congressional committee concerning a FISA warrant application. Putting aside his earlier denunciation of the memo as signaling the end of the Republic, Murphy added, “This memo seems to do more to confirm the legitimacy of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign than to undermine it.”
Democrats have sought to discredit assertions made in the Nunes memo by noting that details have been left out, the reddest of red-herrings. All narrowly focused summaries – police reports, editorials, political columns, news stories, and even the thousands of press releases sent to Connecticut’s media by Blumenthal during his 20-year reign as state attorney general – necessarily omit details of the broader investigations. Neither Blumenthal nor Murphy have yet focused on the assertions they claim are misleading in the Nunes summary memo.
The memo strongly suggests that information submitted to a FISA court wrongfully included questionable data from a dirt digger paid by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign team to produce an opposition research document usually used in political campaigns to generate media interest. The memo suggests that some of the data presented to the FISA court was circulated by the oppo-researcher to a news outlet and the resulting story was then used by those who secured a FISA warrant to support the veracity of claims made in the dirt document. The memo argues, a recent Washington Post story tells us, that the planted story was used by the Justice Department to confirm assertions made in the unreliable oppo-research document – which “violated the cardinal rule of source handing.”
One expects partisanship of politicians like Blumenthal and Murphy, but non-partisan journalists, a vanishing species, generally do not appreciate being misused in this way -- nor should the U.S. Intelligence community.
Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based columnist.