It has been clear for a while now that one of the strategies employed by Trump’s congressional enablers is to harass Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the FBI by demanding the release of classified information and then threaten to impeach him if he doesn’t comply. After coming under such pressure, the administration took the unusual step of releasing the FISA warrant application that led to the surveillance of Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page.
The argument for this strategy is framed in the context of “questions” posed by Trump’s enablers that would be addressed and answered by the release of such documents. We now have a perfect example of how that doesn’t work.
First of all, the FISA warrant applications were 400 pages long. There aren’t many people in this country who are willing to wade through that much legalese. For those who don’t, they have to rely on summaries from those who did. We can all be confident that the president didn’t wade through those 400 pages. Instead, he tweeted this, followed by quotes from Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch on Fox News:
So we now find out that it was indeed the unverified and Fake Dirty Dossier, that was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC, that was knowingly & falsely submitted to FISA and which was responsible for starting the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
The headline from conservative columnist Byron York that is making the rounds today reads: “FISA Warrant Application Supports Nunes Memo.”
But here’s the conclusion reached by Charlie Savage in the New York Times:
When President Trump declassified a memo by House Republicans in February that portrayed the surveillance of a former campaign adviser as scandalous, his motivation was clear: to give congressional allies and conservative commentators another avenue to paint the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference as tainted from the start.
But this past weekend, Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision, which he made over the objections of law enforcement and intelligence officials, had a consequence that revealed his gambit’s shaky foundation. The government released the court documents in which the F.B.I. made its case for conducting the surveillance — records that plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims [in the Nunes memo] about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false.
You can read the rest of Savage’s piece to get the details of how he reached that conclusion. Republican Marco Rubio had this to say on CNN yesterday.
About the release of the FISA warrant used to justify alleged spying on Trump staffer Carter Page during the election, Rubio said: “Yes, I don’t think they did anything wrong. I think they went to the court. They got the judges to approve it. They put — laid out all the information. And there was a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page.”
When it comes to the facts, Julian Sanchez sums things up:
What this does make clear beyond any serious doubt is the brazen dishonesty of the Nunes memo. It is impossible to imagine a reasonable person reading this document and then making the claims in that memo in good faith.
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) July 21, 2018
In other words, the “spin” put on all of this by Trump enablers Tom Fitton and Byron York is not what a “reasonable person” would conclude. And yet it will form the basis for the narrative that will take hold among Trump’s base of supporters, who are not likely to ever be exposed to the facts.
That is why, during his speech in South Africa last week, Barack Obama pointed out that in order for democracy to work, you have to believe in facts.
The undermining of facts began when those in the mainstream media decided that the coverage of issues was ultimately political and that objectivity meant giving “both sides” an airing. That opened the door to the idea that there are both liberal and conservative facts. That is the opening that Trump and his enablers are exploiting regularly, including their lies about this FISA warrant application.