Over the last couple of weeks, those Republicans hellbent on protecting Donald Trump have been talking about a secret memo compiled by Representative Devin Nunes, the water-boy for President Trump. A #ReleasetheMemo hashtag began trending on Twitter at one point, thanks in large part to the aide of Russian bots. The Republicans spoke as though they had some smoking gun that would take down the entire Mueller probe. They spoke of troubling corruption, dangers to Democracy, a deep-state effort to overthrow the President.
We know what’s in that secret memo now, thanks to the NYTimes. If this is the Republican bombshell, it’s about as dangerous to democracy as that “secret society” the two FBI agents joked about in a lone text.
A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.
Let me break that highly-classified bombshell down for you: The man appointed by Trump to serve as Deputy Attorney General — and was approved 94-6 by Congress — approved the extension of a warrant to surveil Carter Page, the Trump campaign associate most obviously connected to the Russians.
To put it another way, Rod Rosenstein is a target of the Republicans’ ire now because he renewed a warrant to surveil a guy that intelligence agencies have been keeping an eye on for years, because his actions have frequently led the intelligence community to believe that he is an agent for the Russians. FISA courts had repeatedly renewed the warrant and Republicans are angry because the guy Trump nominated to be AG renewed it again.
Where’s the smoking gun here? The Republicans claim, I guess, that Rosenstein relied on the Steele dossier to approve the renewal — Carter Page is mentioned multiple times in the dossier — but there was plenty of other evidence to suggest that Carter Page was associated with the Russians, including information the intelligence communities received from Australians. Also, Carter Page’s actions. Also, have any of you ever heard Carter Page speak? Listen to the man for 30 seconds and you’re like, “Yeah. Whatever he’s been accused of? He’s guilty.”
ALSO, why would Republicans even care that Carter Page was being surveilled? How many times has Trump minimized Page’s contributions to his campaign? How many times has Trump said, “I don’t know that guy”?
I don’t know how this even helps Republicans; all it seems to do is to draw more attention to Carter Page, a guy with whom the campaign has repeatedly distanced itself. This is bloody close to nonsensical.
So the big secret behind #ReleaseTheMemo is that the man who Trump selected as his Deputy Attorney General had reason to believe that a former Trump campaign official might be acting as an agent of Russia? And Republicans want this to come out? https://t.co/GKDk2gDlDg— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) January 29, 2018
Also, even if Nunes tells us that Christopher Steele is being paid in What Happened royalties, there are mountains of reporting that say the dossier isn’t why the FBI began their investigation, and merely corrobated evidence they already had.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) January 29, 2018
The very same guy Trump said was so trustworthy he listened to his advice to fire Comey. That Trump lie comes back to haunt now. https://t.co/9BtB9ijZS0— Tim Miller (@Timodc) January 29, 2018
I genuinely don’t understand the Republicans’ argument here. As best as I can see, it looks something like this:
A man who "hires the best people" (Trump), appointed a Republican as his Deputy AG (Rod Rosenstein), who continued surveillance of Carter Page, which was started by Republican Comey. Now the GOP thinks this is a smoking gun against Republican Robert Mueller, so they wrote a MEMO.— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) January 29, 2018
If Robert Mueller desired to get a FISA warranted granted on Carter Page today, knowing everything we know about this strange character, every FISA judge in the country would grant him that warrant. To push a narrative that this warrant was unwarranted is in and of itself INSANE!— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) January 29, 2018