Anyone who has waded through first-year Latin will remember future-less-vivid conditional phrases. Those are the “if he were to, then I would” conditions in which Latin uses the present subjunctive: “If the President were to release the Congressman’s Memo, the Left would go stark raving mad.”
Well, he did, and they did, which I guess means we have moved into the indicative. I have some other conditionals that I’d like to present to the President for his consideration—if you have his ear, I’d appreciate it if you would bring them to his attention—but first a few words about The Memo and The Madness.
The virtual ink wasn’t dry on the much-anticipated Memo—a four-page summary of “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation” prepared by the GOP majority of the House Intelligence Committee—before a cataract of commentary flooded the airwaves and cyber hustings.
Among the best commentary on the Right were “Worse Than Watergate” by Chris Buskirk at American Greatness, “Why Did the Democrats Lie So Baldly About the Memo?” by my PJ colleague Roger L. Simon, “Trump Triumphs with Release of House Intel Memo,” byDavid Goldman (another PJ colleague), and Mark Steyn’s withering “Uncandid in Camera.” Andrew McCarthy did his usual service of providing a patient and meticulous legal analysis of the memo and what it means for the key players based on what we know so far.
The “so far” is important. For these are early days in the memo-publishing biz. The Democrats, claiming that the GOP “cherry picked” and distorted the findings of the Committee’s findings, are preparing to release their own summary. And Devin Nunes, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has described Friday’s memo as merely “phase one.” “We are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation,” Nunes said on Fox News, “which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in [the Trump-Russia investigation].”
There has been such a blizzard of accusation and counter-accusation that it is a little difficult to keep clear on what all the sound and fury is about.
Taken together, the columns I link to above provide a pretty comprehensive guide for the perplexed. But boiling it all down for prime time I would say the issue is this: did the Obama administration weaponize the police apparatus of the U.S. government (the DOJ and the FBI) in order to spy on its political opponents, aid the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and then, after she lost, sabotage the incoming administration of Donald Trump?
Put thus baldly, it sounds like an improbable plot for a political thriller, Shack of Cards, say.
This is where the future less vivid comes in. Consider this list of allegations, drawn from his reading of the memo, compiled by Chris Buskirk. “Based on what we know now,” Buskirk wrote,
[T]he conspiracy to undermine candidate Trump and later to destroy President Trump may have been limited to the Justice Department and FBI. That would be bad enough—and a serious threat to representative government striking, as it does, at the efficacy of our elections—but it may also have extended to the West Wing where U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, at a minimum, used “national security” as a rationale to insert themselves into the election.
If these things were true, what then?
While you’re pondering that, consider a few of the specific points that Buskirk raises:
1. The FBI’s case to the FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court was based almost entirely upon a partisan hit-job bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Christopher Steele, the source of the dossier, had “financial and ideological motivations” to undermine Donald Trump according to the Nunes memo. In fact, the FBI’s file records that Steele told Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr that “he was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”
2. Ohr’s wife was one of just seven employees at Fusion GPS, the firm that was paying Christopher Steele. The personal financial relationship between the Ohrs and the dossier was concealed from the court.
3. The FBI could not corroborate the information in the Steele dossier, calling it only “minimally corroborated” but did not disclose this fact to the FISA Court thus leading it to believe that the information in the dossier was either FBI work-product or that it had been independently corroborated by the FBI. Neither was true.
4. The FBI did not disclose that the source of the information which formed the basis of their FISA application was a paid political operative of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
5. The FBI and the Department of Justice intentionally misled the FISA court in their applications to obtain authority to spy on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. They did this not once, but on four separate occasions over the course of a year, including after Donald Trump was in office. The misleading applications were signed off by James Comey (three times), Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente, and Rosenstein.
If these things were true, what then?
Well, if you are James Comey, former director of the FBI, it’s time to play Walt Whitman, become large, and contradict yourself. Since being fired by Donald Trump last May, Comey has competed with the President in issuing provocative tweets. In response to the Nunes memo, he went full Dada. On the one hand, he tweeted Friday, it was no big deal. “That’s it?” On the other hand, the “Dishonest [how?] and misleading [where?] memo” 1. “wrecked the House intel committee” [really?] 2. “destroyed trust with Intelligence Community” [holy cow!], 3. “damaged relationship with FISA court” [tell us how, Jim], and 4. “inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen” [exactly what classified info? And, anyway, shouldn’t we mostly be concerned that you were spying on an American citizen to aid a political candidate whom you liked and damage another whom you didn’t?].
Let’s see if we can help poor Jim Comey with the last question in this bizarre tweet: “For what?” he asks. In other words, why did Devin Nunes seek to release the memo and why did the President declassify it so that it could legally be released? (Note this last point: the information in the memo was not classified by definition because the President of the United States, under the power vested in him by the Constitution, declassified it.) How’s this for a first stab at an answer to Comey’s question? Because when you were director of the FBI you oversaw and abetted the illegal spying on American citizens for partisan political reasons, because you misled the FISA Court in applying for the surveillance warrant, and because you were knowingly part of an effort to sabotage first a presidential campaign and then a presidential administration that you did not like. This is leaving aside your possibly felonious actions in leaking classified information yourself. How’s that for starters?
Let’s see if Adam Schiff, or Chuck Schumer, or Nancy Pelosi or their PR flaks at CNN, The Washington Post, and kindred organs of undeplorable enlightenment have any convincing rejoinders to that description. Jerry Nadler’s pathetic response Saturday shows just how desperate they are. [Update: Andy McCarthy eviscerates Nadler’s sorry performance here.]
In the meantime, consider this: According to the Nunes memo, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCade testified before Congress that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the [FISA Court] without the Steele dossier information.” But these spooks are thorough. They didn’t rest when they got a pack of unverified gossip from a declared Trump-hater who scraped together what even Comey described as his “salacious and unverified” skein of innuendo from various unnamed Russian sources, all paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign (funneled through two levels of intermediary institutions, a law firm and Fusion GPS). No, these G-Men are serious. They confirmed information. How? By referring to a Yahoo News story (don’t laugh) whose author, Michael Isikoff, confirmed that the only source for his article was (wait for it) Christopher Steele! Yep. As Mark Steyn put it, “the Government got its surveillance warrant by arguing that its fake-news dossier from Christopher Steele had been independently corroborated by a fake-news story from Christopher Steele. Either,” Steyn concludes, “the FBI is exceedingly stupid, which would be disturbing, given their lavish budget. Or the same tight group of FBI/DoJ officials knew very well what they were doing in presenting such drivel to the FISA court.” Which is it?
While you are waiting, let me move on to my promised scraps of advice for the President.
- If it were the case, as has been alleged, that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to subpoena texts and messages from Devin Nunes and other Congressional members of the intelligence committee because he was “tired of dealing with the committee,” then the President should fire Rosenstein. “I didn’t want to do it,” he could say, “but my administration respects the process of Congressional oversight.”
- If it were the case that Congressional Democrats refuse to come to a deal about DACA with the President, then the President, starting March 5 when the current legislation expires, should start deporting illegal immigrants. 1000 on the 5th, 1000 on the 6th, 1000 on the 7th, and so on. “I didn’t want to do it,” he could say, “but my administration stands for enforcing the law, and so they have to go.”
- If it were to happen that the Democrats refuse to do their job and vote on a budget, then the President should once again let the government shut down and hang responsibility for the resulting pain around the neck of Chuck Schumer and his enablers. “I didn’t want to do it,” he might say, “but my administration upholds the law. I had to do it.”
I am sure other scraps of advice will occur to me in due course. But that’s a bit to be getting on with. Besides, Memo-Madness promises to grip the country like no scandal since Watergate. Doubtless there are twists and turns yet to be revealed, but from what we know so far I’d say that the primary “Russian collusion” to be revealed by Mr. Mueller’s probe will turn out to be between the Hillary Clinton campaign and, via that energetic fantasist Christopher Steele, unnamed Russians. I also suspect that the effort of the FBI, goaded by the Obama administration and Hillary’s satellites, to rig the election and then, when that didn’t work, to delegitimize the duly elected President of the United States will emerge as the biggest political scandal in our nation’s history.
Let’s see if I am right.