One of the major frustrations a lot of us Russia-collusion skeptics have had over the past year has been the way intelligence and law enforcement agencies have used secrecy regulations to prevent the revelation of information that a) has no national security value but b) would be a source of embarrassment to the agency.
Earlier in the year, President Trump intervened in a spat between three House committees and Rod Rosenstein over classification in favor of the House. What the documents revealed was that the so-called Trump (or Steele) dossier had a significant role in starting the Russia probe and in getting FISA warrants–which it must be pointed out produced nothing–on Carter Page. Now President Trump has ordered another tranche of documents declassified at the same time that Devin Nunes is in the process of declassifying the testimony of some 70 witnesses interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. The Democrats are in a tizzy.
But Democrats see a more sinister plan: to taint special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe, while simultaneously motivating Trump’s political base on the precipice of an election in which Democrats are favored to make gains. To Democrats, the situation has eerie similarities to 2016, when WikiLeaks’ slow-drip daily release of internal Clinton campaign emails hobbled Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and offered regular fodder for Republicans.
“Oh, God,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton’s campaign. “Trump could be setting the stage for the same kind of manufactured October surprise designed to help boost his standing and undermine Mueller.”
Taken together, the soon-to-be-released documents — ranging from a highly classified application to surveil a Trump campaign aide, to transcripts of interviews with Trump’s campaign staffers, to former FBI Director James Comey’s text messages about the Russia probe — are likely to feed theories that the Russia investigation was launched on false pretenses, even if many find few revealing details in the newly public pages. And if the document releases are spread out over the weeks leading up to the election, they threaten to hijack several news cycles and give the president plenty to tweet about.
At this point, I think it is hardly a “theory” to say that the Russia probe was launched under false pretenses. The real question is whether the false pretenses were caused by blindered zealousness or a desire to overturn the result of the 2016 election.
The chimera of “selective release” is continually floated as a reason that we should distrust the document release. Factually, we know that if any of the documents, anywhere, contained any evidence of the Trump campaign engaging in some kind of quid pro quo with the Russian government in order to get aid in winning a handful of votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, those documents would have come to light a long time ago and I would fully expect the Democrats in Congress and the Justice Department to leak contradictory documents.
If these documents are being released at an inconvenient time, the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. If they’d joined with Goodlatte, Gowdy, and Nunes to demand declassification, those documents would already be in the public domain. But, as we’ll see, the reason they didn’t want the documents out there is that they support President Trump’s contention that the Russia probe is a fraud and a political hit.
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