Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent thinks President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are engaging in a cover-up related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation by releasing the so-called FISA memo.
However, the White House and GOP members, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes of California and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, say the opposite is true — that the purpose is transparency.
The memo, compiled by Nunes, reportedly contains details about surveillance by the Obama administration’s intelligence community of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election and the president’s associates during the transition.
It also likely includes information about what part the Trump dossier — paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democrat National Committee — played in obtaining FISA warrants to surveil the Trump team.
In a Thursday piece entitled, “As Mueller closes in on Trump, the Republican coverup intensifies,” Sargent contended that Trump “may take dramatic action to constrain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation in the next few days or weeks.”
He added that the president will “likely use” the Nunes memo as justification to “take perhaps his most serious step yet in dismantling the independence of law enforcement, to shield himself and his associates from accountability.”
Sargent referenced earlier reporting by The Post that the president wants the memo out to lay the foundation for removing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation.
The memo will show that officials in the FBI and Mueller are biased against him.
“It is probably no accident that all of this comes as The New York Times reports that the Mueller probe is intensely focused on Trump’s role in drafting a statement falsifying the real rationale for the June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. held at Trump Tower to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton via the Russian government,” wrote Sargent.
The columnist concluded, “Many Republicans have insisted that the Mueller probe’s independence must be respected. Yet how many of them have come out against release of the Nunes memo? Some Republicans, of course, support its release precisely because they do actively want to see Trump constrain the Mueller probe.”
“And so, (House Speaker Paul) Ryan and every Republican who supports its release know that he is opening the door to the possibility of a very serious escalation in Trump’s abuse of power.”
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah denied that notion.
“No, the purpose is transparency,” Shah told CNN. “This is a legislative process, (the House Intelligence Committee) initiated it. We are only following through on our role throughout the House rules.”
Ryan fully supports the memo’s release.
“I think we should disclose all this stuff,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I think sources and methods we’ve gotta protect, no two ways about it for sure, 100 percent,” he said. “But I think disclosure is the way to go. It’s the best disinfectant. And I think we need to disclose, that brings us accountability, that brings us transparency, that helps us clean up any problem we have with (the Justice Department) and FBI.”
He further stated, “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel found it ironic that the Democrats would complain about the memo being an exercise in misdirection, arguing that the Russia investigation itself is.
Nunes and Gowdy have been adamant that the American public has the right to know the contents of the memo.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Nunes said, “Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies.”
He added, “it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Gowdy said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” that the reason House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff and his fellow Democrats have been so opposed to releasing the memo is because it will be “embarrassing.”
“My Democratic colleagues didn’t want us to find this information,” Gowdy said. “They did everything they could to keep us from finding this information.”
He continued, “I think it will be embarrassing to Adam Schiff once people realize the extent to which he went to keep them from learning any of this. That would be the embarrassment.”
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