On Friday, the much-ballyhooed Nunes memo was released to the public. If you’d like my analysis of its explosive contents, you can listen to my podcast breaking it down.
But aside from what’s in the memo itself, three (in my opinion) troubling subplots have emerged that also merit further discussion.
1) Jeff Sessions’ pre-emptive defense of Rod Rosenstein
If you’ve read the Nunes memo for yourself (and you should, because self-government after all), then you know it calls into question the chain of command at Obama’s Department of Justice. The DOJ continued working with a partisan source named Christopher Steele, who was being paid by the DNC/Hillary campaign to investigate Trump, even after James Comey’s FBI decided he was too compromised to be used as an asset. One of the men named within that chain of command at DOJ was none other than Rod Rosenstein, who is currently deputy attorney general in Trump’s DOJ.
At the very least, this calls into question Rosenstein’s judgment and demands further scrutiny. Either the memo is lying, or Rosenstein is a swamp thing. Don’t the American people deserve to know which is which?
However, there was his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, praising Rosenstein the morning before the memo’s release, even going off-script from his prepared remarks to do so and calling Rosenstein “the kind of quality and leadership we need.” So either Sessions was pre-emptively saying a key component of the Nunes memo is false, or Sessions was praising someone who helped weaponize the DOJ for the Clinton campaign.
Which is it?
Oh, and Sessions brazenly praised Rosenstein in public after he was “publicly reprimanded” by President Trump, who reportedly said Sessions and DOJ needed to improve in their jobs or be remembered as the worst in history. What reportedly set Trump off here was Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who like Rosenstein works for Sessions, warning against the release of the Nunes memo.
At the very least, the timing of Sessions’ canonizing of Rosenstein is curious.
2) FBI declaring war on the Trump Administration
A former CIA counterterrorism expert appeared on CNN over the weekend to say his sources within the FBI are “ticked.” And saying things like “[Trump] has been here 13 months, while we’ve been here since 1908. We know how this game is going to be played, and we’re going to win.”
I thought Charles Cooke at National Review had a perfect response to this swampy sentiment: “One doesn’t have to like Trump, or admire his behavior, or think this memo is a big deal, in order to find this attitude alarming. The FBI is subordinate to an executive agency created by Congress.”
Indeed, if you’re trying to convince the public you’re an institution of integrity that takes seriously its charge to protect the nation’s justice, this is not the way to respond. This sounds more like “The Swamp Strikes Back” than “faithfully support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
And if a cache of partisans within the DOJ were actually weaponizing their institution for partisan political purposes, then they are most definitely domestic enemies of the Constitution of the United States.
3) Calls to appoint an independent counsel
As a general rule, I oppose independent counsels. Whether it be Lawrence Walsh, Ken Starr, or now Robert Mueller, given the track record of the office, I have no idea why partisans on either side desire them.
We have three independent branches of government already, each with Constitutional oversight of the other. We also have modern technology, which permits the public to see for themselves in real time whether their government is acting in good faith or not. Again, given the track record, it appears that independent counsels are far better at leaking what are supposedly confidential investigations/grand jury proceedings and expanding their initial jurisdiction than they are at true justice.
Come to think of it, that’s precisely why partisans on both sides desire them. Still, I’m not above compromise. Especially when such a serious matter is at stake.
Thus, I’m willing to meet these calls halfway. Before appointing an independent counsel to follow up on the Nunes memo, President Trump should declassify the FISA warrants and applications. That way, the public can actually see if they corroborate some of the most explosive claims of the Nunes memo or not.
Because if they don’t, what exactly are we creating another bureaucracy for anyway?