Friday, February 02, 2018

Nunes Pulls Memo Out of His Hole, And It Casts A Long Shadow - 6 More Weeks Of Trump Presidency At Least

The Republicans are now deeply into Newspeak.  Their words mean the opposite of normal usage.  On this groundhog day, I'm reluctantly allowing myself to be dragged into the Memo's shadow,  to offer some translation and other contextual matters.  (Here's a link to the Memo* itself.  No, I don't know enough to judge it, but if I have to choose between Comey's assessment and Nunes' (or Trump's), it's an easy decision.

Today the conservative spin machine is supporting the release of 'the memo' on the grounds of transparency and the public interest.   (I can't find a good quote that includes both those terms together, but here's Tucker Carlson on Fox lambasting Democrats for opposing transparency, and here's NDTV focused on 'significant public interest.")


1.  The public interest = Trump's interest, and by extension the interest of individual Republicans who will do anything to maintain their power in Congress - individually and collectively.

2.  Transparency = is good when it is harmful to Trump's enemies.  So the leaks of Clinton's emails were good.  The release of 'the memo,' is good.  Why?  Because it is in 'the public (Trump's) interest by using carefully selected tidbits to attack the Mueller's investigation.  If transparency were really the principle in question here, then the Intelligence Committee's minority response would also be released.

Transparency isn't something that Trump has supported much up to now.  I sort of agree with Craig Griggs who tweeted:

I said 'sort of agree.'   Trump is good at doing something outrageous that then becomes part of the negotiation, something that should never have been on the bargaining table at all.  I won't 'take the Memo release" in exchange.  But if Griggs cedes the memo, then Trump has already won.  One more instance of making the previously unthinkable, a done deal.

Let's follow through on transparency here.  After all, the Democrats have been more likely to call for transparency in recent years.  What are the legitimate conditions for not being transparent?

For one, if transparency doesn't really mean transparency, but rather, as the Democrats claim in this case, a mangled combinations of fact shadows and outright manipulation and deception.  But there are also legitimate reasons for things to be redacted.  The Freedom of Information Act (which, by the way, was passed during the Republican Nixon administration) offers a list of nine exemptions, info that isn't available to the public.  (Some probably reflect heavy industry lobbying more than the public interest.)

 The FBI and DOJ claim that releasing the memo will compromise various democratic processes that will destroy relationships based on trust.  Here's James Comey's assessment of the damage:

One could liken this to a case of infidelity - Nunes has broken his vows as the head of the House Intelligence committee to maintain the secrecy of confidential information, vows to keep this committee bi-partisan.  But marriages do get back on track after one partner strays.  And Nunes is NOT the committee, he's a temporary custodian of the committee.

I've gone back to look for documentation of the agreement for bipartisanship in this committee and haven't found it yet.  The Intelligence Committee's website is vague in its History tab, but it does have a link to the original legislation from 1977.

Section 7(b)(1) says:
"(b) (1) In any case in which the select committee votes to disclose publicly any information which has been classified under established security procedures, which has been submitted to it by the executive branch, and which the executive branch requests be kept secret, such committee shall notify the
President of such vote.  [emphasis added]
So they seem to have followed that requirement.  Then the next step is as follows:
"(2) The select committee may disclose publicly such information after the expiration of a 'five-day period 'following the day on which notice of such vote is transmitted to the President, unless, prior to the expiration of such five-day period, the President, personally in writing', notifies the committee that he objects to the disclosure of such information, provides his reasons therefor, and certifies that the threat to the national interest of the United States posed by such disclosure is of such gravity that it outweighs any public interest in the disclosure.
Have five days passed?  It says they have to wait five days for the president to object.  If a president tells them it's ok, I guess they don't have to keep waiting.

WARNING:  The law is incredibly convoluted and what one section says can be conditioned in other sections or by court decisions.  I'm simply providing a starting point here, but do not claim that I in any way know anything more than what this particular piece of legislation says.  Or even that much.

In the best of democratic situations, everything should be transparent, the good and the bad - if not immediately (as exceptions in the Freedom of Information Act spell out).  Like in science, the debate should be able to reveal problems or give added support.  If, however, as the agencies claim, the debate is hampered because national security would be jeopardized by revealing confidential information, such debate can't really take place.

Hopefully, the collateral damage Comey lists will eventually get resolved.  Ideally the damage will fall more heavily on Nunes, Trump, and the Republicans who aren't standing up to the bully president.

Nunes' "Release the Memo" will, I expect, go down in history on the same page as Joseph McCarthy's "I have a list."

There is more than an imagined connection here.  Trump is said to have gotten his basic strategy for everything - Attack, Counter-Attack, Never Apologize - from Roy Cohn who was Joseph McCarthy's aide.  Everything is connected.

Since I've mentioned Cohn, I should point out that I also have a revealing post on Roy Cohn:

"Roy Cohn was one of the most loathsome characters in American history, so why did he have so many influential friends?"

Which has as a follow up question:  "Or,  how and why do 'good' people allow 'evil' to flourish?"

It's a post I'd recommend if you haven't read it already.  It includes video from the award winning play "Angels in America" - the part where Roy Cohn is arguing with his doctor about his AIDS diagnosis.

*Update Feb 2, 2018, 5:45pm - One set of Cliff Notes for reading the Memo is Marci Wheeler's piece at Huffington Post.


  1. Memo released, Atlas Shrugged, now back to the main event- Drumpf/Russia investigation and above all voting out wingnuts in the next election.

  2. Just started Sinclair Lewis's classic: "It can't happen here". And reading only a few pages in, already seeing the comparison to what happened then to what's happening now...."with 95% of 'em only thinking of self instead of turning to and helping the RESPONSIBLE business men to bring back prosperity!"


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