On Friday February 2nd, 2018, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R - CA), in coordination with the White House, released the controversial Memo detailing alleged FISA abuse in the surveillance case of Carter Page. Page, once named by Trump in an offhand listing of potential foreign policy advisors, has long been a target of FBI surveillance in connection with his activities involving known Russian spies - in fact, the first probe of his Russian ties dates back to before Trump even ran for office.

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In the memo, Nunes further alleges that current Deputy Attorney General and Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein behaved improperly in his role in re-approving the FISA warrant to watch Page. According to Nunes, the entire FBI/DoJ case for continued FISA warrant renewal was based on the infamous Steele dossier - a compilation of raw intelligence generated by British spy Christopher Steele relating to President Trump's ties to Russian government officers and oligarchs - which Nunes and his contingent in the House believe to be a Democratic hit-job on the President.

Unrolled thread from @SethAbramson - threadreaderapp.com
Unrolled thread from @SethAbramson - threadreaderapp.com

So, does Nunes' memo make a strong case that the renewal of FISA warrants was improper or illegal? No. Unfortunately, Nunes' motivations seem to be entirely political in nature. In his desire to shield the president from those who would investigate him, Nunes has spurned the intelligence community by publishing a memo the FBI called out for "material omissions of fact". Even the Department of Justice run by Trump appointee Jeff Sessions has stated that releasing this memo would be an incredibly reckless act.

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Nunes' opponents rightly point out that his memo leaves out critical information relating to how FISA warrants are obtained. For example, it would be impossible for the FBI to have made their entire case for continued FISA surveillance of Carter Page on the basis of the Steele dossier - rather, the continuation of FISA warrants requires the federal prosecutors to prove that it had produced material evidence. Nunes' memo leaves out the fact that the FISA document submitted to court is dozens of pages long, going into great detail about Page's activities, and he is able to get away with it because the relevant information is still classified.

Through careful collaboration with the White House, Nunes has crafted the perfect weapon for Donald Trump to use to pursue the firing or resignation of his staunchest opponents within the justice system. As many have noticed, every justice official named in the memo has either been fired (like Fmr. FBI Director James Comey) or forced to resign (like Fmr. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe). The only one remaining is the very man supervising Special Counsel Robert Mueller III's Russia probe - Rod Rosenstein.

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We, as Americans, must demand that he be protected, for his firing could spell the end of the Mueller probe and represent a permanent decline of the rule of law. If a president is allowed to shield himself from any and all checks on the legality of his behavior, his power becomes virtually unlimited. Futhermore, Mueller's reputation is sterling and his investigation is decidedly not a witch hunt. (More on Mueller probe here)

When asked today if he would fire Rosenstein as a result of this memo, President Trump punted, preferring to leave the American people in suspense.

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At this hour, it seems likely that Trump and Nunes are both waiting to see the public's reaction to this misleading memo before taking the next step in this slow-rolling Saturday Night Massacre.

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