Allegedly tomorrow, the House Intelligence Committee will finally release the memo that has mesmerized Washington for a week. This is what I think everyone should keep in mind when that time comes.
The memo is not going to contain details.
It will cover actions but the corroborating documents are not declassified. If you’re going into this expecting a document that is going to be a game changer, you’re going to be disappointed.
What to watch for: The FBI says the summary is misleading. Expect to hear a lot about context, etc. Don’t be distracted. If it is, they can fix it easily. Declassify the documents and prove it. The fact that they won’t do that indicates that they might be being less than candid.
The memo is going to focus on abuse of the FISA process.
We’re led to believe the focus will be primarily on Carter Page’s treatment.
What to watch for:
1. Was the Trump dossier used to support a FISA application on Carter Page and how was that dossier represented to the FISA court? Was it identified as the product of the Clinton campaign? Was it cherry picked for factoids that have been proven true while ignoring the larger problems of provenance and verification?
2. Carter Page is about to undergo an amazing transformation from goofy, wannabe-international-consultant to super spy. Because if the FBI will abuse FISA to get at a nobody like Carter Page, then, really, none of us is safe.
Pushback out the wazoo.
There is going to be a ton of pushback. It will be wild. It will be incoherent. It will be self-contradictory. None of that matters. What is happening is that everything is being thrown against the wall in hopes that enough of it sticks to discredit the document.
For a week now we’ve been told that the memo prepared by the House Intelligence Committee is an irresponsible and reckless act that endangers national security. Now that the release of the memo is imminent, the narrative is changing.
NEW: Rising White House fear: Nunes memo is a dud https://t.co/wgL7AWHAv2
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) February 1, 2018
More than fear for a number of folks who have been told of its contents https://t.co/2Re07wLZCp
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 1, 2018
"People who are familiar with the contents of this Nunes memo, inside the administration say that its not the slam-dunk its being portrayed to be … the debate is, is there a political value to (angering) the FBI, the intel community" – @jonathanvswan w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/KtoQwxjwKl
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) February 2, 2018
Not everyone got the message. For instance, Democrat Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee predicts Armageddon:
— CNN (@CNN) February 1, 2018
What to watch for: multiple lines of attack that will coalesce on “this is a nothingburger.” This will be after we’ve all been accused of colluding with the Russians. Adam Schiff quotes will again be everywhere. You might even start to think Schiff is a conservative from some of the places he will be quoted.
Linkage to Robert Mueller
You will hear over and over that this memo is designed to discredit Robert Mueller. It isn’t. This is part of an ongoing investigation into the practices of the FBI and the intelligence community and their use of FISA.
What to watch for: Claims that this is designed to get rid of Rod Rosenstein, who apparently signed off on the last Carter Page FISA warrant, so Trump can replace him with a more compliant guy. It doesn’t have to be plausible. They just have to say it loud enough for the media to know to push it. The only conceivable linkage to the Mueller investigation is if Mueller has used the Trump dossier for FISA applications. I doubt that happened, but if it did, ignore everything you just read because it just got very real.
Linkage to Russia allegations
If there is a target here, it will be that the entire collusion allegation is built upon oppo developed by the Clinton campaign and laundered by the FBI in order to set off an investigation. The underlying question is whether they were knaves or poltroons. Was FBI counterintelligence in a bromance with Christopher Steele and they just bought what he was selling? Or did they make a decision to use the dossier no matter how it was produced?
What to look for: How is the dossier used and how many times is it used? Is it used for other things than FISA applications? Could the Russia probe have been started without the dossier?
There will be issues at play out of sight. To a certain extent this is an iceberg…or a black lab swimming…only a small portion will be visible. Keep this thought in mind. The memo has not leaked. That speaks volumes.
The biggest danger here is overselling this to ourselves. It is not going to remove entrenched Comey-ites from the FBI or Obamanauts from Justice. It simply is not going to be able to do that. It might cause sufficient discomfort that some are quietly moved to other positions. Rejoice in that. Be prepared to be underwhelmed. But be prepared to enjoy the show.