The past several days the Trib has published columns pro and con about a Republican-crafted House Intelligence Committee memo causing a national tempest. Republicans allege the FBI, in pursuing a Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court warrant as part of an investigation into Russia’s influence over Donald Trump’s inner circle, hid from a FISA judge the fact that evidence used to justify this surveillance warrant came from biased research funded by Democrats in the 2016 presidential race.
Since the memo’s release, matters have become more complicated. Republicans admit — oops! — they failed to mention in their memo that the controversial FBI warrant application included a footnote referring to some evidence as overtly political in nature. Democrats claim this proves that Republicans cherry-picked evidence. Republican Congressman (and Baylor University alumnus) Trey Gowdy, who helped craft the memo, acknowledges the footnote but says it was unclear to the point of irrelevance. President Trump claims the GOP memo vindicates him. Gowdy says it doesn’t — and supports the ongoing Mueller investigation. Confused?
Observations from beyond the Beltway:
- Republicans might be correct to rally in defense of the constitutional rights of former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, a suspected patsy for Russia, but it’s also relevant to recall that, before the same House Intelligence Committee in November, Page pleaded the Fifth when pressed for documents deemed relevant by the committee. And the FBI reportedly had Page under investigation well before Trump declared his run for president.
- The release of the Republican memo without a Democratic counterpoint memo confirms this is about politics, even if it means throwing the FBI under the bus. The excuse that Democrats must wait till their memo is equally vetted? Committee Chairman Devin Nunes blew a perfect chance to demonstrate equity and hold off on the Republican memo release until both could be issued simultaneously.
- Citizens may never know if there was valid FISA warrant justification because of hyper-partisanship in Washington. Was there corroborating evidence to procure the wiretap warrant and three renewals? Without seeing all classified documents, it ultimately gets down to whether you trust the Republicans or the FBI.
- Just because evidence submitted to procure a warrant was funded by political research doesn’t mean it isn’t legally relevant. What if the allegations are true?
All of us should be deeply concerned about any allegations of FBI wrongdoing. However, discerning citizens should demand and consider open testimony from key parties before passing final judgment — certainly before dismissing the FBI as infected by a “secret society.” To his credit, Republican Congressman Gowdy on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” expressed confidence in embattled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray; dismissed “Deep State” rumors; and supported “100 percent” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Trump associates and Russian infiltration. At times, Gowdy also seemed concerned Republicans had opened a Pandora’s box. Possibly. The alt-right, rabidly pro-Trump group Freedom Watch now labels Gowdy “two-faced.”