Earth To News Media: The Russia Scandal Constitutional Crisis Already Has Arrived
There are really only three things you need to know about that partisan hit job in the form of the classified House Intelligence Committee memo released last Friday to breathless anticipation in general and right-wing Republican hysteria in particular: Fox News and the similarly paleolithic Washington Examiner got copies hours before the rest of the media, which speaks volumes, the fourth and final page of the memo undercuts the first three pages, and the memo does not take us closer to a constitutional crisis, as the news media would like you to believe. That crisis has arrived.
The memo is a paper thin, poorly sourced and intentionally misleading dud — a nothingburger in contemporary political parlance — that fails to land any punches, least of all the pre-release hype that it would reveal the FBI as a deep-state cabal spearheading a vast liberal conspiracy to advance Hillary Clinton’s agenda and stymy Trump.
Most glaring is the memo’s claim that the FBI’s Russian election interference investigation was predicated on a FISA warrant against Trump campaign official Carter Page and that the warrant was based on the Steele dossier, which was assembled at the request of the Fusion GPS strategic intelligence firm and underwritten by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, albeit unwittingly and without their knowledge, but somehow was all their doing. Conveniently omitted was the fact that the original Fusion GPS clients were conservative foes of Trump, while nothing in the memo undercuts the substance of the dossier.
The memo contradicts itself in noting on the final page that the FBI’s investigation actually began because of George Papadopoulos, while failing to note that this Trump campaign loose cannon pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.
Also conspicuous in its absence is that Page, who has suddenly gone from being a Trump campaign embarrassment to a right-wing darling, was so mobbed up because of multiple contacts with Mother Russia dating back to 2013 that the FISA Court had granted the FBI three separate surveillance warrant extensions based on new evidence so counterintelligence agents could keep a close eye on him.
And so the memo, artfully crafted by Devin Nunes, the Intelligence Committee chairman and Inspector Clouseau of Capitol Hill, ended up confirming that the FBI investigation not only was justified, but Mueller needs to keep digging.
THE PREDICATE ACT IN THE WATERGATE DRAMA that plunged America into its last constitutional crisis was the Saturday Night Massacre.
On October 20, 1973, Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox — the Robert Mueller of that era — who was investigating events surrounding what Nixon infamously described as a “third-rate burglary” following a White House-orchestrated break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. On October 19, Cox had supoenaed Nixon and asked for copies of taped Oval Office conversations about the break-in and subsequent cover-up. Nixon refused to comply.
Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus resigned over Cox’s firing.
Nixon then ordered the now acting head of the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork (yes, that Robert Bork), to fire Cox, which he dutifully did. The Saturday Night Massacre was concluded, and it spelled the eventual end to the Nixon presidency in what in retrospect was a ringing affirmation of the rule of law and the constitutionally mandated prohibition on presidents politicizing criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Trump, of course, has no regard for the rule of law, let alone the Constitution.
The consequence of Trump’s disregard has been a slow-motion constitutional crisis that commenced with his escalating vexations last spring over the recusal of AG Jeff Sessions, including personal attacks and firing threats. Then came the defenestration of FBI Director James Comey when he wouldn’t pledge his loyalty to the president or accede to curtailing his investigation, followed by an order to White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, which Trump backed down from only when McGahn threatened to quit, and more recently efforts to put the screws on Christopher Wray, who is Comey’s successor, and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, who has been forced into early retirement.
Trump certainly believes that the memo will suffice as a rationale for what may be his next move — firing Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who had appointed Mueller as special prosecutor.
And so the 2018 version of the Saturday Night Massacre would be concluded.
WHAT POLITICAL DAMAGE MIGHT TRUMP INCUR? To be honest, I have no idea.
The Democratic congressional leadership and the national party as a whole acts like it has been spending more time smoking dope than crafting a winning message. If recent emails to moi from DNC chief Tom Perez and Joe Biden, with his endless supply of platitudes, are any indication, the Democrats are more interested in raising money than raising hell.
Four House Intelligence Committee Republicans disputed the memo’s findings on Sunday talk shows, as well as Trump’s claim that the memo vindicated him. They may understand that the memo may have the consequence of undermining Trump’s tenuous position even more.
The president’s supine congressional sycophancy is, of course, more concerned with stoking the fire under the pot in which they would like to stew Mueller than fulfilling their oaths of office. Then there is the concomitant metamorphosis of the GOP — which for decades prided itself as the defender of the FBI and arch-enemy of the Soviet Union — into something that looks, sounds and smell an awful lot like abetting treason.
What do you think a House chockablock with ciphers like Nunes will do if Mueller indicts Trump or recommends that he be impeached because, lest we forget, he helped Russia steal the 2016 election, undermining the very foundation of American democracy, and then set out to systematically throttle efforts to investigate him?
Nothing. And yet again, the big winner is Vladimir Putin.