Wait. That’s it?
That’s the blockbuster secret memo?
That’s the Four Pages of the Apocalypse, the document that’s supposed to cleanse the FBI and shake the Mueller investigation to its core?
We’re ... underwhelmed. There was no blockbuster in the four pages released by the House Intelligence Committee Friday. What those pages contained instead was an allegation that the FBI obtained a FISA surveillance warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page based on information supplied by a source who didn’t like Donald Trump.
Even that allegation might not be true. The FBI says the memo is rife with inaccuracies. So do Democrats in a rebuttal the same committee refuses to release. Also left out was any supporting documentation, such as the actual FISA application. Instead, what America got was speculation without evidence, accusations without facts, about a small part of a massive Russia investigation.
Really, that’s it?
This is what Republicans thought was worth risking the good name of the FBI and its agents. This is what Donald Trump thought was worth further corroding his relationship with the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
That last part, at least, shouldn’t be surprising. Trump has long been at war with the FBI, along with the CIA and any agency he feels isn’t sufficiently on his team. He apparently believes the memo helps justify his desire to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which would allow the president to find a friendlier replacement who could help slow or stop Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The memo offers no such justification. It is classic conspiracy weaving and Talk Radio 101, a declaration that if one fraction of an FBI investigation has a sniff of partisanship, the whole probe must be tainted. The only people who will believe that are those who already have their eyes closed before reading it, because the president already has persuaded them the Russia probe is a political witch hunt.
In that way, allowing the memo’s release was a clumsy political move on Trump’s part. It had already done its job before Friday, prompting breathless alarm about the FBI and sowing doubt about the origins of Mueller’s investigation. The smart play for Trump would have been to somberly keep the memo secret and let the spores of conspiracy continue to flourish in the dark.
Instead, the president turned the light on. What did we learn? Not much. But the memo reminded us of plenty.
It reminded us that House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes is a bumbling Trump sycophant who already had to step away from the Russia investigation once and now should be relieved of his chairmanship.
It reminded us which Republicans are willing to inflict foundational damage to our country’s top law enforcement agency for the sake of protecting the president and their party.
It reminded us which Republicans (hello, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr) are willing to meekly watch them do so.
If anything, the memo might leave President Trump more vulnerable with the public. After all, it’s hard not to wonder how desperate he must be to participate in such a political stunt.
Which is exactly what this was. The blockbuster secret memo is a dud. It’s Geraldo’s vault. It’s Y2K. It’s almost comical, except that it’s something more. It’s dangerous.