President Donald J. Trump continues to face pressure as Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes progress with his investigation into whether then-candidate Trump colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. One of the latest hot-button issues is the Nunes Memo.
The Nunes Memo
The Nunes Memo is a four-page document assembled by Representative Devin Nunes (Republican – California). It claims that the FBI has seriously abused its power during the Russia investigation. Some of Nunes’s fellow Republicans view the memo as confirmation that the president has been right all along about the bureau being out to get him. Democrats, on the other hand, allege that Nunes merely cherry-picked items to support the president’s theory and then presented them without context and twisted them to bolster the claim of bias.
Because of the information it draws from, the memo was classified, meaning only those with the correct security clearance could view it. However, House Republicans voted to declassify it. The president had the final say-so on the matter and approved the release of the memo to the general public. FBI Director Christopher Wray objected to the release of the memo. In a show of support for Wray, the FBI Agents Association published this statement: “The FBI Agents Association appreciates FBI Director Chris Wray standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work together to protect our country from criminal and national security threats.”
Who is Devin Nunes?
So, who is Devin Nunes? Nunes is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a longtime Trump supporter. He not only served on the president’s transition team but also defended National Security Adviser Michael Flynn when he was accused of lying about his dealings with Russia. It would eventually come to light that Flynn did indeed lie (see “Former National Security Adviser Flynn Guilty of Felony”) and Nunes’s defense was misguided at best. After Trump claimed President Obama had wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign, both the NSA and FBI denied the allegation. Nunes covered for Trump by saying, “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition.” It was later revealed that the information Nunes used to defend Trump came from Trump’s own team. Following the revelation, Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the House’s Russia investigation for eight months while the House Committee on Ethics looked into his conduct.
What is the Nunes Memo?
What is in the Nunes Memo? The main focus of the memo regards a man named Carter Page. Page, who is a Kremlin sympathizer with business ties to Russia, was a foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 election campaign. The memo claims surveillance of Page was not properly authorized by a court and may have been politically motivated. The New York Times reported, “The memo’s primary contention is that FBI and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by [former British spy Christopher Steele].” Because the Steele Dossier was partially funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Nunes alleged it and the subsequent surveillance of Page were the result of bias against Trump. Nevertheless, just because the Clinton campaigned back Steele’s research, that does not automatically make it inaccurate. In fact, some of the revelations in the Steele Dossier have already been proven to be true. Upon release of the memo, it was discovered that the surveillance was not based on the Steele Dossier as Trump supporters believed and the Times reported but, rather, on information provided by former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos (see “Trump Associates in Legal Trouble”).
The weeks following the public release of the Nunes Memo will reveal what effect it has on the Russia probe. It is unlikely Robert Mueller will allow it to distract him from his investigation, including his desire to question the president himself. What could derail the investigation, though, is if Trump decides to fire Mueller. An action he has considered in the past.