Trump publicly announced that he was “inclined” to release the 10-page memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. The memo more commonly known as the Schiff memo penned after the committee’s ranking Democratic member, Adam Schiff, is a direct rebuttal of the memo released by Committee chair Devon Nunes. His memo ripped the FBI for alleged gross overreach in the Russia probe. Trump quickly and eagerly latched onto it to virtually declare victory in that it supposedly proved that he did no wrongdoing in the Russia meddling probe in the 2016 presidential election.
The Nunes memo did nothing of the sort. Democrats swiftly jumped all over it for it’s cherry picking of facts to make the case that the FBI and Democratic operatives were out to get Trump. The Schiff memo was the counter to that.
Now, Trump’s word that he’s “inclined” to release the Schiff memo is nothing more than his word. He’s got the best excuse in the world for sitting on it, the FBI and the Justice Department told him to because it may disclose sensitive national security information that presumably puts some operatives and operations at risk. This is deliberately vague and opaque, and is the standard ploy used repeatedly by presidents and other government agencies to evade public scrutiny for every kind of covert, improper, and often illegal action they engage in.
This is exactly what the Russia probe is all about: uncovering an illegal action. This is what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been pecking away at to prove for months. Trump and GOP leaders want to make that probe go away. The Nunes memo fit neatly into that scheme. The case could be made that the Nunes memo might also contain some information that could be interpreted as posing national security concerns. But GOP leaders didn’t utter a peep about that possibility, and neither did Trump.
The Democrats made this point. But their hands are momentarily tied. Trump does have the legal authority to make the call if, when, or even whether, the Democrat’s memo can be released. If, or when, it is, Trump’s going to demand that it be the tamest, watered down version possible. In other words, a shell of the original. He’ll comb through it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that it doesn’t contain anything that even remotely hints at any wrongdoing on his part in election tampering.
The Nunes memo must be seen against the backdrop of the GOP power grab and hold. If a big segment of the voting public believe that Trump cheated to get into the White House, and that he’s in cahoots with an avowed competitor, if not outright enemy, of the U.S, Russia, then a cloud will hang heavy over his administration. That could sell peril for the GOP in the crucial mid-terms in November.
However, if the GOP can poison the well on this enough with the FBI malfeasance allegation, all of this become almost a moot point. Since, the Justice Department and the FBI would be seen as untrustworthy, disreputable, and on a witch-hunt to nail Trump. This is the Trump line, and with the Nunes memo he got the paper to wave around to supposedly prove that.
The dueling GOP and Democrat’s memos are a near textbook example of how the Trump administration in cahoots with the GOP will engage in the crassest and most cynical partisan politics at every turn to bend, shape, and manipulate congressional procedures to ram its agenda through. In times past, it would have been routine for a congressional committee to release a report that would contain dissents from either the GOP or Democratic members of the committee. This would not have sparked weeks of bitter charges, countercharges, and wild accusations of a party out to get a President. Those days are over for the present anyway.
House Democrats for their part have said that they are willing to rework their memo to get it released. That’s simply recognition of the brutal reality that Trump and the GOP hold all the political cards for now. The good news though is that Trump’s duck, dodge, and stall on the Schiff memo won’t accomplish what he and the GOP are desperate to make happen, and that’s make Mueller go away. He’s got indictments, mountains of documents, and the authority to subpoena Trump to toss questions at him about election meddling. Trump may make the Schiff memo go away, but he can’t make that go away.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. His latest book is, Fifty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts (Middle Passage Press) will be released in April. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.