In the battle of the House intelligence committee memos, Rep. Devin Nunes promised a smoking gun, but he delivered little more than innuendo.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a former prosecutor, responded with verifiable facts.
Schiff’s memo, released last weekend after a two-week delay engineered by the White House, is a detailed rebuttal of dark suggestions that the ongoing investigation of meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion between Russian interests and Donald Trump’s campaign, is the product of a partisan smear orchestrated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
There isn’t any doubt that the Russia government tried to influence the outcome of the election.
There isn’t any way to determine how many votes, if any, were swayed by fake news and propaganda — and there’s been no showing that the outcome of the election was affected.
As for any collusion, special counsel Robert Mueller and his staff of investigators and prosecutors are working diligently to find out if that happened.
Nunes, R-Tulare, made a ham-handed attempt to undermine confidence in the collusion investigation. His memo took snippets of information out of context to produce a misleading narrative about a hidden effort in October 2016 to halt Trump’s momentum, even as the FBI was reopening its investigation of Hillary Clinton.
Beyond the obvious contradiction of the FBI scheming secretly to hurt Trump while publicly targeting Clinton, Schiff, D-Burbank, shows that the FBI considered Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, an agent of the Russian government and that U.S. Justice Department scrutiny of Page dated to at least 2013.
Investigators’ interest in Page accelerated in July 2016 when, after joining Trump’s campaign, he traveled to Moscow, where he met with, among others, a close associate of Vladimir Putin. Three months earlier, Russians had offered “kompromat” — dirt on Clinton — to another Trump campaign adviser.
Page departed the campaign before investigators requested the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant at the heart of Nunes’ memo, undermining claims that the FBI manipulated the court in order to snoop on Trump’s campaign.
Moreover, as Schiff outlined in his memo, investigators did, in fact, tell the FISA court about the partisan underpinnings of the infamous dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele, undercutting another claim by Nunes.
Despite redactions demanded by the White House (which raised no concerns with classified information in Nunes’ memo), Schiff also made clear that Steele’s dossier was but one small piece of a detailed application to the four judges, all appointed by Republican presidents, who issued the FISA warrant in October 2016 and subsequently renewed it three times in 2017.
A warrant, it should be noted, is neither an indictment nor a conviction. Warrants are issued based on probable cause, and information often comes from biased or unsavory sources.
Nunes never came close to backing up his claim of a “troubling breakdown of legal processes” in the FBI investigation of Russian meddling. Schiff, on the other hand, made his case that investigators “would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country” had they failed to follow up on what they learned about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.