Oh Boy! Another Memo!
Wonderful news, everyone! We have another memo! And this one isn’t some loaded pack of half-truths from the House GOP’s Trump Defense Fund. Oh no, this time we have the ungainsayable wisdom of the Senate GOP’s Trump Defense Fund, led by those stalwart grassroots constitutional conservative freedom fighters, Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham.
On its face, the Grassley/Graham memo (read it in its entirety here) is just another cherry-picked partisan interpretation of the underlying events and documents. That said, if you sift through its loaded running commentary, this memo does provide more factual information than the Nunes memo, which was little more than pro-Trump talking points.
So here, sans interpretive leaps, is what this new memo acknowledges or implies:
1. FBI cited the Steele dossier in applying for a warrant regarding Carter Page.
2. FBI informed the court that the dossier was paid for by people with political motives, but did not explicitly identify the DNC and Clinton campaign as the “people” in question. (And yes, Clinton and the DNC may only be called “people” in scare quotes, lest we commit an injustice against all the legitimate un-scare-quoted people of the world.)
3. FBI justified using Steele’s work on the grounds that Steele had been a reliable source of intelligence in the past.
4. Steele’s reputation as “reliable” was based on his twenty-year career with MI6, along with many years as a private intelligence-gatherer whose work had been used, presumably with mostly satisfying results, by the FBI before.
5. Steele seems to have tripped over his ego or his personal political enthusiasms on this assignment, including unvetted information in his dossier, and more importantly speaking to the media about his findings, which is against the rules of the game.
6. Steele, apparently knowing he messed up by talking to the media, lied about this to the FBI, who took him at his word, presumably based on past good faith associations. (See 3 and 4, above.)
7. Discovering Steele’s violation of their warning to keep his information private, the FBI officially informs the court that they have suspended their relationship with Steele due to his having spoken to the media about the content of his dossier without FBI authorization.
8. FBI nevertheless continues to cite the dossier, compiled prior to the suspension of the relationship with Steele, as part of its case for renewing the warrant regarding Carter Page. This is apparently due to the fact that the FBI suspended the relationship based on Steele’s loose lips, not on any loss of general respect for his professional experience and skills as a source of intelligence. (See 3 and 4, above.)
That the compiling of this intelligence was paid for by Trump’s opponents seems to have mattered less to the FBI and the FISA court judge than the fact that the person who compiled it had an impressive professional intelligence resume and a history of providing useful intelligence to the FBI. This latter fact must not be overlooked, as it provides essential context that colors the decisions involved quite differently than the Nunes-Hannity talking point, “Deep state conspiracy against Trump.”
The White House is apparently doing redactions now on the House Democrats’ own memo which is supposed to call into question many of the allegations or implications of the GOP memos.
Is it just me, or is this all starting to look more and more like schoolchildren passing nasty notes about each other in class? Elected officials call these notes “memos,” you see, so it’s all very grown-up. I’m hoping we can get past the “memo” stage quickly, and move on to spit balls, and then, sooner rather than later, a rumble behind the garbage bin.
With any luck, they’ll all knock each other out cold, and America can once again enjoy the fresh air of a government shutdown, this one hopefully much longer than the last one.
By the way, didn’t all those hundreds of members of Congress who just voted to renew the FISA process without even including new safeguards proposed by Justin Amash (House) and Rand Paul (Senate) steadfastly assure everyone that FISA could and would never be used against American citizens? And yet here they are throwing around the most egregious accusations of just such abuse. So why did they vote for it without even considering new safeguards? You want to talk about deep state conspiracies? I’ll give you a deep state conspiracy.
(See also “The Lion, the Witch, and the Memo,” and “Okay, Okay, the Stupid Memo Again.”)