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Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Memo: Firestorm over Russia probe intensifies

The release of a Republican memo that alleges misconduct at the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) has thrown fresh gasoline on the firestorm over the Russia probe.
Democrats and others skeptical of President Trump fear a new push to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or hinder special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller is investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign, as well as the possibility of obstruction of justice. Rumors Trump will fire him have been joined in recent days by speculation that Trump might also fire Rosenstein or that FBI Director Christopher Wray could quit over the memo's release.
Democratic strategist Robert Shrum condemned the memo as “obviously a piece of political propaganda that omits significant facts.”
But he added, of Trump, “I would not be surprised to see him fire the deputy attorney general, or try to fire Mueller.”
Republicans who are supportive of the president insist that the memo has provided clear evidence of political bias against him — even though some of them express qualms about how hard Trump should assert himself in the aftermath.
“What remains to be seen is, does the president let public outrage take its course or try to use this as a blunt-force instrument against the ongoing investigation?” mused one source close to the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, Republicans skeptical of Trump have registered their disappointment at the remarkable spectacle that has played out in recent days.
The White House overruled warnings from the FBI and DOJ to allow congressional Republicans to release the memo.
In a Friday statement, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hit Trump and his allies for “looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows.” McCain added, “If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s job for him.”
The FBI and the DOJ had both urged the White House to block publication of the memo. The FBI charged that it made “material omissions of fact” while the DOJ suggested it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release it. 
Where do things go from here?
All eyes will — as so often — be on the president.
Asked about the memo during a meeting with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, Trump replied, “It's terrible. You want to know the truth? I think it's a disgrace.”
When a reporter followed up by asking whether it made him more inclined to fire Rosenstein or whether he still had confidence in the deputy attorney general, Trump responded, “You figure that one out.”
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah denied on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" Friday that there are plans to oust Rosenstein.
"There has been no change in the president's confidence in the deputy attorney general," Shah said. "We continue to expect him to fulfill his job as attorney general and don't expect any changes."
Rosenstein is of pivotal importance in the Mueller probe, since he could limit the scope of the special counsel’s inquiries and place other restrictions upon him.
Rosenstein has those powers because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any role pertaining to the Russia probe 11 months ago, after it emerged that he had undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during Trump’s campaign.
Speculation that Wray would resign in protest at the decision to release the memo has receded. In an internal message to bureau employees Friday, Wray urged his staff to “keep calm and tackle hard.” 
Wray — a Trump appointee, following the firing of James Comey from that position in May 2017 — also said, “Talk is cheap; the work you do is what will endure." 
But that was a rare calming statement amid a feverish atmosphere in Washington. The temperature of the rhetoric on both sides of the political divide, already hot, has been nearing a boiling point.
Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.), a conservative Republican, said in a statement Friday that the memo amounted to “convincing evidence of treason” on the part of the FBI.
Former Rep. John Dingell (Mich.), a liberal Democrat, tweeted that “congressional Republicans are quite clearly complicit in this White House’s efforts to undermine and obstruct justice.” He added, “Lock every single one of these bastards up. “
Both sides will have more material to get their teeth into soon, it appears.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose staff wrote the memo that was released Friday, suggested more revelations could be forthcoming.
In an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News early Friday evening, Nunes suggested that alleged malfeasance on the part of the State Department would be the focus of further investigation.
A Democratic countermemo could also be released in the coming days.
The top Democrat on Nunes’s committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), has blasted the original release. Schiff called the decision to release the Nunes memo “shameful” in a Friday statement in which he also pushed back against several specific accusations.
Schiff took issue, for example, with Republicans’ emphasis on a dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele, whose research was being paid for in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
"The [Russia] investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and … the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture,” Schiff asserted.
As the debate consumes Washington, there are sometimes unusual points of agreement.
The idea of Trump moving directly against Mueller or Rosenstein, for example, is something both his detractors and many of his allies seem to think is a bad idea.
Pro-Trump voices argue that the president can let others make his case.
“If I was advising him, I would say, ‘I think it’s best to let other people carry this water. This case is so strong and so clear that you don’t need to be involved,’ ” said Barry Bennett, who worked as a senior adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. 
Other observers take a diametrically opposite view of the memo — but they too fear overreach by the president. 
“It is a definite possibility that he will try to move against Rosenstein,” said Harry Litman, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration.
“Will he need more? You would think. But this is another example of his stunning brazenness. He does actually have the right to fire Rosenstein. He could do it on this threadbare effort.”
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

Republicans open to releasing Democrats' countermemo

Facing mounting political pressure, Republicans are signaling increasing openness to releasing a Democratic rebuttal to a controversial GOP memo made public Friday by the House Intelligence Committee.
Republican lawmakers said Friday evening and Saturday morning that they would be willing to consider releasing a memo by Intelligence Committee Democrats, which is still classified after the Republicans on the committee made public a four-page document alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and Justice Department. 
Some Republicans on the committee and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have signaled that they are open to making the Democratic rebuttal public.
But many have been steadfast in claiming that the Democratic memo would first need to be scoured to ensure that it does not divulge information that could endanger national security or intelligence gathering.
The memo released Friday, compiled by Republicans led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), accuses FBI and Justice Department officials of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
Republicans had argued that releasing their document was necessary, because it shed light on what they say is bias among federal law enforcement officials, as well as the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
But intelligence committee Democrats have raised concerns about the memo's accuracy, and have accused their Republican counterparts of omitting key information in order to discredit the Russia investigation and protect President Trump.
In turn, Democrats have pushed to release their own classified memo filling in what they see as important material omissions in the GOP document. They contend that by declining to release the Democratic response, Republicans are trying to tamp down a narrative that could throw their own into question.
"If it is scrubbed to ensure it does not reveal sources and methods of our intelligence gathering, the speaker supports the release of the Democrats' memo," AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said of the Democratic memo on Friday.
Nunes said Friday in an interview on Fox News that the committee would hold a vote on whether to release the Democratic response. But when that will happen is hard to pin down, he said, adding that the document would have to be reviewed before the committee could bring the matter to a vote.
"I've only read through it once. We're going to have to go through it and scrub it again," Nunes, who led the charge to release the GOP memo, said.
But Nunes also sought to pre-emptively cast doubt on the rebuttal. He accused Democrats of blatantly lying about whether a clandestine court was made aware of the political origins of an opposition research dossier that Republicans claim made up a key pillar of the FBI's case to surveil Page. That is reportedly one of the claims made in the Democrats' document.
Democrats say that the court was, in fact, told that funding for the dossier came from a political entity. Nunes, however, said that such information was never disclosed, and that the surveillance order would not have been issued if it was.
"These guys tell so many lies you can’t keep track of them," Nunes said, referring to Intelligence Committee Democrats. "If the court did know that, I think the judge would have to be considered very suspect, but I don’t think that happened at all."
The White House has also signaled an openness to declassifying the Democratic memo if it goes through the same vetting process that the Republican document was subjected to.
Raj Shah, a White House deputy press secretary, said on CNN Friday that Trump "would be inclined" to OK the memo for release, so long as national security officials determine that it does not endanger intelligence sources and methods. The president has the authority to block or approve the release of classified information at the behest of Congress.
"We would be happy to review it once it's sent to us and once it goes through the House Intelligence Committee and the House of Representatives process," Shah said.
Even if Republicans move to hold a vote on whether to release the Democratic memo, it isn't clear if it would pass.
When House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted on Monday to release their document, they voted down a series of motions by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the panel's top Democrat, intended to ensure that the minority's rebuttal would be released as well.
They did, however, approve one motion allowing the Democratic memo to be made available to the entire House, as the committee had previously voted to do with the Republican memo.
Intelligence Republicans have said that they simply want the minority rebuttal to go through the same review process required of the Nunes memo.
Asked on PBS "NewsHour" if he would vote to release the Democratic memo, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) sided with many of his GOP colleagues. He said that he would support doing so, as long as any sensitive information was redacted.
"As long as it doesn't have direct revelations of existing, ongoing intelligence, which I think we can take out, but of course I would support that," he said.


(1) Isn't it weird that in America, our flag and our culture offend so many people, but our benefits don't?

(2) How can the federal government ask U.S. citizens to pay back student loans - when illegal aliens are receiving a free education?

(3) Only in America are legal citizens labeled "racists" and "Nazis," but illegal aliens are called "Dreamers."

(4) Liberals say, "If confiscating all guns saves just one life, it's worth it." Well, then,
if deporting illegals who are convicted felonssaves just one life, wouldn't that be worth it?

(5) I can't quite figure out how you can proudly wave the flag of another country, - but consider it punishment to be sent back there.

(6) The Constitution: It doesn't need to be rewritten, - it needs to be reread and followed.

(7) William F. Buckley said: "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other points of view, and are then shocked and offended when they discover there are other points of view."

(8) Joseph Sobransaid: "'Need' now means wanting someone else's money. 'Greed' means wanting to keep your own. 'Compassion' is when a politician arranges the transfer."

(9) Florida has had 119 hurricanes since 1850, - but some people still insist the last one was due to climate change.