Prepare for the fallout of the Nunes memo

Devin Nunes' infamous memo may be a fake news, but the consequences could be real

Published February 2, 2018 8:11AM (EST)

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans prepare to release the controversial Nunes memo, the intelligence world is bracing itself for a significant hit to its intelligence gathering methods — even as many in the White House are concerned that the memo won't dispel the cloud of accusations that have darkened Trump's presidency.

On Friday — the day the memo is expected to be released — Trump took to Twitter to attack the FBI, with people reading it as a sign that he's behind the memo fully.

Many officials in the Trump White House are deeply skeptical of the memo, according to Axios. The sense is that the memo will not have the explosive impact that Trump's more vehement partisans insist that it will and, as a result, will further alienate the president from the FBI and larger intelligence community without yielding the political rewards that Trump and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., are clearly hoping for.

And what are those rewards? Trump has discussed with both advisers and friends that he believes the Nunes memo will help him discredit Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Justice Department, according to The Washington Post. His goal is to convince the public that the investigation into potential collusion between his campaign and Russian officials is a "witch hunt" and that Rosenstein has not been sufficiently loyal to the president. As a result, Trump's hope is that the Nunes memo may give him the political cover necessary to fire Rosenstein and implement personnel changes at the Justice Department.

While Trump and House Republicans work on releasing the Nunes memo in order to derail the investigation, however, other sources believe that doing so will be a disaster. FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed after Trump fired his predecessor James Comey, has expressed "grave concerns" about releasing the memo compromising the FBI's intelligence gathering methods and tried to prevent its release, according to Politico. British security services are also "rankled" at the thought of the memo being released, according to The Telegraph.

"The question is whether there are any adults left in the G.O.P. The evidence so far is not encouraging, notwithstanding a sporadic furrowed brow in the Senate," wrote the editorial board of The New York Times on Thursday. "At some level, one hopes, a sense of shame and responsibility to the republic will finally kick in. But that, too, is unlikely. Republicans from the top on down have made it clear, expressly or otherwise, that this is all about winning the political fight directly in front of them, the consequences — and the rest of America — be damned."

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, gave what could be a final warning before the memo is released.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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