What has happened to the Republican Party? The party of patriotism. Law and order. Ardent defenders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. Flag-waving opponents of Communism and our mortal enemy Russia.
Those Republicans seem to have disappeared down the rabbit hole – taking a misinformed majority of their voters with them.
The GOP and Donald Trump are clearly determined to stop the investigation into Russian efforts to swing the 2016 election Trump’s way. So determined, in fact, that they are abandoning their ethical and political moorings by attacking the FBI, the DOJ and members of their own party.
The memo written by GOP House Intelligence committee members’ staffers and released by the supposedly recused-from-the-Russia-investigation Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is case in point.
That memo grew out of right-wing extremist accusations that key law enforcement figures in the Russia investigation – including former FBI Director James Comey, current FBI Director Christopher Wray, Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, and his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – are all “deep state” actors conspiring to take down the Trump presidency. In reality, all four are rock-ribbed Republicans known for their professionalism, integrity, and loyalty to America.
It grew out of GOP claims that the FBI has become a “hotbed of liberalism” – a statement that elicited laughter from former FBI official Ron Hosko. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he told HuffPost Politics in a Feb. 1 article. “At its core, the FBI is still a pretty conservative, right-leaning organization that tries to divorce itself from politics.”
It grew out of right-wing claims that those same senior law enforcement officials fooled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court into conducting surveillance on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page by presenting “Democratic” opposition research (the Steele dossier) and nothing more, to the court. (While ignoring that the dossier was initially commissioned by the right-wing website Washington Free Beacon, and ignoring that FISA warrant approvals require several layers of authentication and multiple sources of documentation.)
They ignored the fact that the FBI had been monitoring Page’s Russian connections since 2013 – long before he joined the Trump campaign.
They ignored the fact that the FISA surveillance in question began after Page left the campaign.
They ignored the fact that four different FISC judges signed off on the warrant, and that judges re-approved surveillance a number of times – which happens only if the process is uncovering evidence of wrongdoing.
And they ignored the fact that the surveillance actually began, not in response to what investigators knew about Page, but to an alert from Australia’s top embassy official in Britain, who reported a booze-induced spilling of the beans about “dirt on Hillary” by Trump campaign operative George Papadopoulos in a British pub. (Which contradictory fact, ironically, was included in the 3½-page memo released by the House GOP on Feb. 2.)
When it finally was published, the memo was roundly criticized – not just by Democrats, as one would expect, but also by officials in the GOP, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the mainstream media.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) – the only House GOP member permitted to read the full FISA application underlying the GOP memo – tweeted after reading the memo that he remained “100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not – in any way – discredit his investigation.”
Matthew Olsen, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the FISA process during his tenure there, called the memo “a transparently political, amateurish effort … not only does it not undermine the basis for the surveillance, but it reinforced that there was real merit and foundation for the application, because this application was approved and renewed multiple times.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that issues raised by the memo are “of great importance for the country,” and said the Justice Department would “fully and fairly ascertain the truth.”
The Justice Department issued a statement calling its release “extremely reckless.”
The FBI declared that the memo should not be released, warning that it had “grave concerns” about its accuracy, due to “material omissions” in the document.
Comey tweeted, “That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House Intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”
And Senator John McCain, (R-AZ) blasted the memo’s release, saying its “attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s.”
The New York Times declared on Feb. 3 that, “The war between the president and the nation’s law enforcement apparatus is unlike anything America has seen…With a special counsel investigating whether his campaign collaborated with Russia in 2016 and whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in 2017, the president has engaged in a scorched-earth assault on the pillars of the criminal justice system in a way that no other occupant of the White House has done.”
And the Washington Post editorial board blasted the House GOP’s one-sided release of information: “…if the Nunes memo were truly about fair congressional oversight of law enforcement, as Mr. Ryan claims, Republicans would allow the simultaneous release of a Democratic memo on the same subject. But they are not. …That leaves unsettling possibilities for why Mr. Nunes, a longtime Trump ally, is pushing to disseminate his version as the president’s ire about the Russia investigation crests …”
If Donald Trump is, as he so vociferously insists, innocent, why doesn’t he just allow the FBI and the Justice Department to do their jobs? If he’s right, they’ll turn up that big “nothing burger” his supporters constantly rail about.
And if he’s not telling us the truth, the investigation will confirm that the man in the Oval Office got there after seeking and accepting the help of a foreign power – something that anyone who truly believes in our American democracy would call morally unacceptable at best and downright traitorous at worst.
But for the sake of our democracy, we must uncover the truth.
Neither the President of the United States nor his supporters should stand in the way of that effort. If they do, they’re betraying their patriotism and their belief in the rule of law in a desperate effort to hold onto political power – no matter what it costs the nation they claim to love.
Marcy Rothenberg is a local writer and political activist who advocates on community, environmental and women’s issues, and whose graduate research analyzed endorsement, messaging and financing disparities in women’s and men’s political campaigns in California. As a member of then candidate Barack Obama’s National Urban and Metropolitan Policy Committee in 2008, she served as a rapid response writer for the campaign.