The exposés in the Nunes memo: big, but not as advertised

Summary: The #ReleaseTheMemo team has won. Now we can see for ourselves what it said. More importantly, we can match the commentary from the Great and Wise with its content — and learn much about the state of American politics. Spoiler: it is not a pretty picture.  Second of two posts today.

Hurt me with the truth, but don't comfort me with a lie.

See the New York Times’ annotated version of the three page memo by the Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It eviscerates most of the following criticisms of the memo, as it does even hint that this contains material secret information — let alone that it will damage US national security. It quotes people who say that its contents is incorrect or misleading. I suspect that eventually we will learn the truth.

The responses to the memo follow the standard US government playbook: admit nothingdeny everything, and make counter-accusations. These accusations are made in response to most leaks of secret info about our wars and security services. They almost always prove to be quite bogus. When reading about our security and intelligence agencies, remember their long list of lies.

The warm-up rounds before release

Republicans made grandiose claims, most of which now look quite delusional. Here is one of the milder ones.

“The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who has called for Mueller’s ouster. “The facts contained in this memo are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency. There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy.”
Statement by Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

The FBI gives a content-free but dignified response. They had four days to review the memo before release, but choose not to provide specifics about any “material omissions.”

“The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process. With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
FBI press release on 31 January 2018.

Brian Karem, CNN Political Analyst, goes mad in the CNN Newsroom, 1 February 2018.

“This is a tipping point for our democracy. Are we going to be a democracy after today or is this going to be demagoguery?”  {See him on the video.}

It's never too soon to scream.

The response by Democratic Party officials range from over-the-top to hysterical.

“Donald Trump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing Nunes’ unredacted, classified memo. His decision undermines our national security and is a bouquet to his friend Putin.”
Tweet by Representative Nancy Peolsi (D-CA), minority leader.

Peolsi seems unaware that the President has absolute authority to declassify secrets. She sets the narrative for the Democrat’s response by alleging damage to national security, without bothering to explain how. She in effect “waves the bloody shirt” to arouse the public, assuming that Americans are too stupid to ask for evidence.

“It’s clear that Chairman Nunes will seemingly stop at nothing to undermine the rule of law & interfere with the Russia probe. He’s been willing to carry the White House’s water, attack our law enforcement and intelligence officials, & now to mislead his House colleagues. If Speaker Ryan cares about the integrity of the House or the rule of law, he will put an end to this charade once & for all.

— Tweets by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Tweet 1, Tweet 2}

Schumer seems unaware that the memo was released according to US law.

“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.”
Tweet by James Comey, ex-Director of the FBI.

Like most of these grandiose reactions, Comey gives no specifics to support his claims.

“The release of the #NunesMemo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and the White House, over the objections of the FBI and the Department of Justice, is reckless and demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth.. This unprecedented public disclosure of classified material during an ongoing criminal investigation is dangerous to our national security. This will make it far more difficult for the Intelligence Committees to conduct meaningful, bipartisan oversight of intelligence activities in the future.  This action was also taken without regard to the damage it could do to our ability to protect Americans from threats around the globe. Unlike almost every House member who voted in favor of this memo’s release, I have actually read the underlying documents on which the #NunesMemo was based. They simply do not support its conclusions.”

Tweets by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).

Warner assumes that the “objections” of the FBI and DoJ should be supreme in the United States. Also, this disclosure is almost trivial to those routinely made by government officials during high-profile criminal investigations (to mold public opinion) — and esp. during Watergate.

“By releasing this memo, the President of the United States is undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and many other intelligence services.”
Tweet by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). Amazing that our intel services have “credibility” after their long history of lies and incompetence. Saying that this helps Putin is delusional.

Of course, the Democrats bring Putin into this!

Criticism of Federal agencies is inherently wrong! Bow Down, Mr. President!

So says my personal favorite response, a NBC op-ed by Steve Vladeck, professor of law at U Texas at Austin and co-editor-in-chief of the Just Security blog. He does not cite sources; perhaps he relies on a Top Secret codicil to the Constitution.

“It was also released over the strenuous objections of Wray and the Justice Department — who warned that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to publicly disseminate the information without first giving the DOJ and the FBI a chance to review (and, presumably, redact) it.

“The whole memo debacle is a damning indictment of this administration’s relationship with the nation’s primary law enforcement agency. It suggests, rather starkly, that the House Intelligence Committee and the White House both decided that it is more important to score partisan political points than to take seriously the substantive concerns — or the long-term reputation — of the FBI. If the politics of the moment are more important to this president and this Congress than the integrity of the bureau, there’s only one appropriate response: Director Wray should resign in protest.”

Congressional Democrat’s Official Response

A letter to the Chief. Photo of it here.

Dear President Trump:

The decision to release a partisan and misleading memo over the objections of your own Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director and the Department of Justice (DOJ) was a transparent attempt to discredit the hard-working men and women of law enforcement who are investigating Russia’s interference with our Presidential election and that nation’s ties to your campaign.

We are alarmed by reports that you may intend to use this misleading document as a pretext to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in an effort to corruptly influence or impede Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation. We write to inform you that we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre.


Senators Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Mark Warner, Dianne Feinstein. Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Joe Crowley, Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler.

An important question

In January Republicans overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and its courts.

Beyond Good and Evil
Available at Amazon

A very smart man sums up Russiagate

“Noble and enthusiastic spectators across America have, from a distance, interpreted their own indignations and enthusiasms into it, and for so long and with such passion that the text has finally disappeared under the interpretation.”

This is a slightly tweaked quote of Friedrich Nietzsche from Beyond Good & Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. This quote discussed the French Revolution, but applies quite well to today’s politics in American — which have become detached from reality.

Our politics have become a food fight, with the original — and important — issues long forgotten. It is just two tribes fighting for political advantage. The Democrats accuse Trump of doing what Obama did; the Republicans accuse Democrats of doing what they did to Obama. This is the politics of mutual destruction, both sides chipping away at the foundation of the Republic legitimacy.

As I said in The secret reason for America’s white-hot political rhetoric, we must see the reason for this.

There are three hundred thousand entries on Google for “political polarization”, mostly whining about its awfulness and pining for the bipartisanship of the days of yore. Worry no more! The rhetoric in US politics has become white hot because it is not polarized. The rhetoric is distracting music, necessary to maintain party cohesion. The rank and file must believe the parties differ in important ways. ”You are evil” replaces “Your policies are bad”.

Our elites agree on an unusually large number of important areas of public policy. The political parties must conceal this from us, so they heat up the rhetoric. Politics becomes a blood sport to entertain a passive and apathetic public. Treason, fascist, and Nazi become commonplace.

The Republicans and Democrats disagree about social issues; this is the core of our so-called “political polarization”. The 1% care about money and power. They don’t care about mating habits of the proles, or most social issues. The endless war, domestic surveillance, maintaining our flat tax system (here and here), dominance of the banks, our State Capitalist economy — you know the list.

Hillary and other Democrats supported Bush’s wars. The GOP supported Obama’s wars. The Democrats support Trump’s wars. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 with a bipartisan majority, just like the past and future DNAA’s. Congress renewed the Patriot Act with a bipartisan majority in 2011 and its renewal, the USA Freedom Act, in 2015. …

As policy differences narrow between the parties, we get more noise. Bush Jr. was a fascist, probably a Nazi.  Obama is an anarchist socialist Muslim pretending to be an American. Trump is evil incarnate. …


Note how statements from officials of both parties about the Memo were quite delusional. That is just business as usual in America today.

Our political food fights are entertainment for proles, powerless and alienated crowds whose excitement substitutes for the real power that comes from committed work in a political movement. This was America in the past, and can be so again. To see how you can begin, see these suggestions (pick one that works for you): Reforming America: steps to new politics.


Here is a Republican-friendly summary of the report: “16 Bombshells in the Nunes Memo the Media Do Not Want You to Know About” by John Nolte at Breitbart.

For a neutral analysis, this article makes many of the same points as I do, but in more detail: “The Biggest Nunes Memo Revelations Have Little To Do With Its Content” by Caitlin Johnstone.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has written a six-page response to the Nunes memo. It is pitifully weak. See this brutal debunking by Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review. McCarthy was assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York (Wikipedia).


For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Trump and the new populism, about the Trump years in America, about RussiaGate, and especially these…

  1. Polarization and hot rhetoric conceal two similar political parties. Will we ever notice?
  2. American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.
  3. Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’.
  4. Jonathan Haidt explains America’s out-of-control polarization.
  5. Trump’s job approval shows the Democrats’ dilemma in 2018.
  6. James Bowman’s explains Trump’s scandalology.

Recommended books about the weakness of the Republic.

Beyond Outrage: Expanded Edition: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it by Robert Reich.

Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by the great Wolfgang Streeck.

Beyond Outrage
Available at Amazon
Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism
Available at Amazon.

7 thoughts on “The exposés in the Nunes memo: big, but not as advertised”

  1. The Man Who Laughs

    The Memo tells us little that we did not already know. It wasn’t Russia hacking the election, it was the FBI. The Memo is simply an acknowledgement of something that’s become impossible to deny.

    But nothing much will happen as a result. The Russiagate witch hunt will not be ended. Mueller will not be fired. Trump will not be impeached. (For Russia, anyway, and probably not for anything else.) No collusion will ever be proved. The FBI as an institution will not be changed.

    The reason The Memo was created in the first place was to provide the public with a summary rather than release unredaccted documents that would lay out who, what, why, where, when, and how. No one will be perp walked, because senior FBI men looking to knock five years off a fifteen year stretch in Leavenworth might rat out major political figures. Some people will be transferred, demoted, or cashiered, but official Washington will circle the wagons around the Secret Police who have. the files on them.

    It’s just another day in Paradise.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor

      the Man,

      “The Memo tells us little that we did not already know.

      I agree.

      “It wasn’t Russia hacking the election, it was the FBI.”

      Even if the Memo’s allegations are all accurate (imo, unlikely), that is still an exaggeration.

      “No one will be perp walked”

      Even if true, I don’t believe anything in this justifies a criminal indictment.

      “around the Secret Police who have. the files on them.”

      That’s an interesting idea. Files were Hoover’s nuclear weapon. Between the FBI and NSA, what might the security services have in their files about our elected leaders?

  2. The Man Who Laughs

    If The Memo is inaccurate, then it’s a very simple matter for the FBI or whoever to refute it. The Memo is a summary of material that could be released to the public unredacted. But the FBI didn’t fight to keep this stuff from the public because it contained evidence of the FBI’s innocence. You don’t say what parts of The Memo you doubt or why, but whatever. There’s no reason to argue over it. The truth is findable, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be getting it soon, if ever. Maybe it’s already been decided that we can’t handle the truth.

  3. The great insight here is that hatred of opponents is now in inverse proportion to policy difference, because these matters are not really about policy but are about a sort of tribal identity. We see this in other areas of social life. The one that strikes me is climate, where the worst thing the activists can say about someone is that they are a ‘denier’. Not that they oppose closing down the car industry, which is so necessary to cutting our emissions. No, its failure to believe or accept that prompts the greatest expressions of hate and fury.

    And by the way we don’t want to close down the car industry or indeed do anything else that will lower emissions. But we still hate anyone who says its not necessary!

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Exactly! I describe this in “The secret reason for America’s white-hot political rhetoric.

      “The rhetoric in US politics has become white hot because it is not polarized. The rhetoric is distracting music, necessary to maintain party cohesion. The rank and file must believe the parties differ in important ways. ”You are evil” replaces “Your policies are bad”.”

      See the most for more about this important subject.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I agree. Both sides (or rather, all sides), have much more ammo to fire off before this winds down.

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