Just days after House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes’ smear campaign against the FBI and Department of Justice had nothing to do with interfering with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Donald Trump tweeted out the exact opposite.
Tweeting from the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, FL, on Saturday, the president, referring to himself in the third person and in quotes, said the Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him in the Russia probe. He also misspelled “there.”
“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on,” Trump tweeted. “Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”
On Thursday, Ryan tried to portray the Nunes memo—which already has been thoroughly discredited even without a 10–page rebuttal by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee having been released—as a GOP–led crusade against abuses of “American civil liberties.”
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“What this is not is an indictment on our institutions, of our justice system. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general,” Ryan said at a GOP lawmaker retreat in West Virginia.
“What it is is the Congress’ legitimate function of oversight to make sure that the FISA process is being used correctly, and that if it wasn’t being used correctly, that needs to come to light, and people need to be held accountable so that we do not have problems again, because this does affect our civil liberties,” he added.
The House speaker repeated those claims on Friday.
Ryan’s comments stand in stark contrast to a statement issued by House Intelligence Committee Democrats calling the decision to publicly release the Nunes memo “a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes.” Which is exactly what the Nunes memo is, as the president admitted on Saturday at his golf resort.
In addition to cherry–picking information about an October 2016 FISA surveillance warrant application for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that makes little sense in the context of the Republicans’ conspiracy theory about the FBI and DOJ, the central tenets of the Nunes memo that purport to show an assault on the Trump campaign by the nation’s top law enforcement agencies have all but crumbled, literally overnight.
Another layer of the onion rotted away on Friday night when The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department did, in fact, alert the FISA court that some of the information provided to justify the warrant on Carter was paid for by a political entity, a reference to the infamous Steele dossier.
A central theme of the GOP conspiracy theory is that corrupt law enforcement officials duped the FISA court into backing a plan devised and funded by Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign to discredit the Trump team. While the FISA application did not mention Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton campaign by name, there was “ample disclosure of relevant, material facts” that showed “the research was being paid for by a political entity,” one anonymous official familiar with the case told the Post.
The official added:
“No thinking person who read any of these applications would come to any other conclusion but that” the work was being undertaken “at the behest of people with a partisan aim and that it was being done in opposition to Trump.”
Experts told the newspaper that this is no big deal, because the Steele dossier wasn’t the only source of information for the FISA warrant, and the process of obtaining such a warrant is so extensive that other compelling information about Page clearly existed at the time—information that Nunes chose to ignore.
As is the norm with Trump, his continuous denials about obstructing justice only serve to strengthen Mueller’s case against him. And his latest tweet is yet another example that this entire Nunes memo fiasco is all about obstructing justice.