Donald Trump diehards have spent most of the last 48 hours trying to blame the government shutdown on Democrats, even though Trump himself was openly cheering for one last spring. When they haven’t been trying to engage in a blatant act of deflection, they were stomping their feet and gnashing their teeth over a classified memo that supposedly proves Robert Mueller abused the Foreign Intelligence Service Act to glean much of the evidence he’s obtained in his effort to get to the bottom of Russia’s hacking of the election.
Several House lawmakers reviewed the memo on Thursday. Within hours, a number of Trump’s most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill were howling about it on Twitter. First up, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.
Just reviewed the HPSCI memo detailing FBI & FISA abuses, and it is very concerning. Every American has a right to see this memo immediately. #ReleaseTheMemo
— Sean Duffy (@RepSeanDuffy) January 19, 2018
That afternoon, Mark Meadows of North Carolina took to the floor and claimed the memo depicted conduct that should never happen in this country.
I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called "Russian collusion." What I saw is absolutely shocking.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) January 19, 2018
Even Donald Trump Jr. got in on the act.
The democrats are lucky Republicans are honorable people. If we played the game like they do the memo would be all over CNN and everywhere else by now. Maybe it’s time we stoop to their level? #releasethememo
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 19, 2018
By day’s end, the hashtag “#releasethememo” was heavily trending on Twitter–aided in part by Russian bots. Hamilton 68, a project of the Alliance for Securing Democracy that tracks Russian bot activity, found a dramatic spike in Kremlin-linked Twitter bots promoting the hashtag. According to alliance communications coordinator Bert Schaefer, it had been used over 3,000 times as of Friday afternoon–far more than anyone can recall a topic being pushed by the bots that Hamilton 68 tracks.
That night, two other Republicans who reviewed the memo, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio, dropped by “Hannity” to add more fuel to the noise machine. They had a lot of help from host Sean Hannity. ThinkProgress got a clip.
When Hannity mused that the memo was an attempt to overturn the election, Gaetz claimed the whole investigation was “a palace coup,” and that Mueller’s entire effort was “built on a foundation of corruption.”
The pearl-clutching continued in earnest, per another clip from ThinkProgress.
Jordan claimed that every American needed to “take a look at this, and see exactly what their government did.” For good measure, Gaetz called for people to go to jail. And yet, Duffy, Meadows, Jordan, and Gaetz couldn’t even give us a hint as to what they’d seen in the memo. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, gentlemen.
There are a lot of other reasons to be very skeptical about this memo. For one thing, the memo is authored by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes. Susan Hennessey of Lawfare suspects that on the face of it, this memo is a Nunes fantasy.
It appears to be some loose collection of Nunes's individual unfounded allegations related to unmasking, not clearly even endorsed by his fellow Republicans, now being seized on by opportunists looking for a Hail Mary to try to tank the 702 bill before Trump signs it. https://t.co/KnsT0VcA1o
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) January 19, 2018
Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider talked to a source who knows about this memo, and isn’t very impressed.
Source with knowledge tells me the Nunes memo is "a level of irresponsible stupidity that I cannot fathom. Purposefully misconstrues facts and leaves out important details." https://t.co/YmzmrHvpYG
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 19, 2018
And that’s before we consider that Nunes has some serious credibility problems. Remember, Nunes got busted in the chops for working hand in glove with the White House to find “proof” that somebody wiretapped Trump Tower–and only succeeded in making himself look foolish.
Moreover, as we already know, the FBI started investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin when a drunken Trump campaign aide, George Papadoupolos, told Australia’s high commissioner, or ambassador, to the United Kingdom that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty points out the biggest problem of all. There’s nothing stopping the memo from being declassified right away.
If this memo is such a smoking-gun bombshell that incriminates Obama, Comey, Mueller, Fusion GPS, etc. … why do we need a #ReleaseTheMemo Twitter campaign? Why isn’t the president declassifying it himself immediately?
— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) January 19, 2018
Why indeed? After all, Trump has been insisting for some time that all the talk about Russia hacking the election is fake news. Perhaps Trump knows that this memo is a nothing burger.
(featured image courtesy U. S. Embassy to Estonia, available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license)