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Nunes memo

February 9, 2018

After weeks of turmoil and hand-wringing from Republicans and Democrats alike, the Trump Administration has finally declassified a long-awaited memo thought to punch holes in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia. In the days following the release of the memo, authored by Devin Nunes, pundits, and politicians on both sides attempted to frame exactly what the four-page document contained, each coming to radically different conclusions. For the Trump camp, the memo completely undermines the investigation led by Robert Mueller and possibly sets the stage for firing current FBI Director Rod Rosenstein. On the other hand, Democrats called the memo dangerous and quickly mobilized to discredit the document before it was released to the public. All the while, the FBI and Department of Justice voiced grave concerns about the safety and accuracy of the memo itself. Despite the concerns of the intelligence community, the memo was released without edits or redaction, with President Trump claiming that it “vindicates” him in the Mueller investigation.

The memo itself, however, does not necessarily pertain to the Mueller investigation, contrary to claims made by GOP strategists and pundits. Instead, the memo alleges misconduct in how Democrats, the FBI, and the Department of Justice handled investigations into Carter Page, a prominent foreign policy adviser for Trump during his campaign. The memo interrogates the process by which the FBI elected to enact surveillance for Page during his travels to Russia, taking particular aim at the evidence used by the FBI to justify a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The memo alleges that the FISA warrants that allowed the FBI to tail Page were entirely based on information from an unverified dossier, circumventing typical fact-checking and proofing methods to ensure FISA warrants are awarded with a compelling reason. Nunes and allies in the GOP claim that if the only information that led to Page’s surveillance was unverified, the FBI exhibited bias in its targeting of Page.

In the end, the memo’s content does not necessarily bear that argument out. While the memo does indeed outline the structure for such an argument, the memo does little to prove it true. There is not any evidence, besides assertion within the memo to prove that the FBI relied disproportionately on unverified information, and other arguments made similarly lack substance beyond accusation. In the end, while not a total loss for the GOP, the memo itself seems to have been oversold prior its release. A rebuttal memo from Democrats remains on President Trump’s desk, for him to read, redact, and declassify within a week.

Anthony Adams
Political Editor

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