Thursday, February 8, 2018

Memo frenzy: sequel 1

The Nunes memo (text here) hammers on the Steele dossier, how biased Steele was against Trump, how the dossier was used to spy on an American whose rights were thus abridged, and, hey, the targeted individual worked on Trump's campaign.

The memo was heartily cheered by the Trump faithful. Their narrative is that the whole 'Russia thing' is fake news, stirred up by media, abetted by deep state leakers and a very biased FBI and Justice Department. Both of those departments should obviously be cleared out, with all these anti-Trump conspirators sent to jail.

The Nunes memo supported this narrative by positing the FBI used the perfidious Steele dossier to get a warrant to spy on a loyal American (Trump adviser Carter Page), violating his civil rights. Those who want to take that narrative even further into territory even Nunes can't go, they say that the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign and giving that information to Obama.

The Nunes is centered on the claim that the FISA court judge wasn't told that the dossier was opposition research. Dems dispute this. Am I going to believe Nunes? Not a chance. I'm looking forward to the actual verbiage that Dems points to as backing their claim that the judge was informed that the dossier had political origins.

The duplicity of Steele is a fair target. He didn't fully share his motives. His work was sloppy and uneven, and he broke faith with FBI by leaking to the press while he was very engaged with the FBI.
Did the FBI know the origin of the Steele dossier, paid for by Clinton and the DNC? Did they dig for the information? How did the FBI frame the information from the dossier? Were they clear on its origin at oppo research? Did the judge have full information? It is a reasonable question whether the court would have granted the FISA warrant if the judge had been fully informed.

The Nunes memo is also disputed because it ignores that the FBI was already investigating Russian hijinks prior to the creation of the Steele dossier. What other information had the FBI gathered? Nunes pretends there was none. Trump loyalists pretend there was none--as though there were no Russian hijinks at all. Dems claim there was other evidence.

If there was no evidence of hijinks, then there is no reason to spy on Carter Page. However, if there were Russian hijinks along with evidence that Carter Page was involved, then there's a good reason to spy on Page. Interestingly, Page hasn't been a big figure in the whole issue of Russian meddling. The current inquiry isn't centered around Page, but around multiple connection points between the Trump campaign and Russia. Also, Russian meddling -- can we take it as granted that there were a lot of Russian dirty tricks? Do we need a laundry list of them?

So the question of whether Russian meddling was real is paramount. If it was real, if there were sources showing Russian meddling, and not just the fervid, well-paid work of one biased spy, then the investigations appear to be justified.

If Russian meddling was real, then Russia deserves the sanctions put on it. And it would have been wrong to remove those sanctions, as it appears Trump was ready to do. In fact, the whole coziness of Trump, many of his advisers, and Russia appear to be frightening, as though rules and laws don't matter.

One other observation about the memo. Nunes claims twice that FBI and DOJ knew the Steele was being paid by DNC, but is actually vague on the point. It doesn't say who in the FBI and DOJ knew this. It is also vague on what was known, using the phrase "knew political actors..." This vagueness may indicate that there is no written evidence that the information was known at that time at the FBI and DOJ.

Is this applicable to the memo? To the strategy?

Extras. Reaction from the director of the FBI. Reaction from the New Yorker. Here's an interesting point. Carter Page was already on the radar of other news organizations before the leak from Steele: Huffpost early Aug 2016, ABC July 2016, and Slate July 2016.

Because of the memo frenzy, Congress didn't do the work they needed to in the run-up to the end of the most recent continuing resolution, so we're facing another shutdown. Way to go, boys!

Guess what! There was verbiage to the effect that the dossier was political. It was footnote, and Nunes knew about it. What a fucking liar he is.

More extras that I forgot. Conservative theories and reaction to them. Super-great wonderful interactive graphic about who is who in the Russia investigation. Gowdy splits the difference in conspiracies. An unofficial Dem rebuttal is rebutted. Scathing review of the memo because the critique is very sharp, not because the language is hyped. WaPo timeline I might want to refer to.

Finally, a much better memo from Senator Ron Johnson. Reasonable tone, reasonable questions. Download the memo and the internal FBI communications. This is what a decent congressman does. Nunes is a sideshow.

More and better extras. A long, detailed profile of Carter Page. Impressive unless it's full of Russian disinformation. Another more important memo, also about the Carter Page surveillance, but so much more solid.

1 comment:

Dangerous said...

The Steele dossier is an easy target for conservatives as is the man himself, but without proper foundation. Steele was and is a well-respected intelligence agent, or at least as well-respected as anyone who operates in or around that world. Whether we like it or not, people like Steele try to determine the truth of various matters related to the persons and their motives and intentions behind state decisions which often decide life and death.

One could make a valid case that all state actors, whether supported by democratic or non-democratic means, utilize their power to benefit themselves and their cronies. This makes them more like criminals than saints or even servants of the people who power they wield. Steele was employed by a private company that does investigations as works-for-hire, like many private detectives in movies and TV. They have clients who pay for their services, but collecting and delivering false information does not help their positions nor those of their clients. If they wanted to make up fiction and give it to their clients as fact, the ruse would be found out soon enough and they would be out of business and their clients would be humiliated.

The Steele dossier is characterized as many things, but intentionally false it is not. Certain facts are not yet corroborated, but that doesn't make them false. Others have been corroborated but that doesn't make the others true. But it is so easy for those who want to dismiss the truth of corroborated facts in it as wholly false simply on the proposition that some of the items in it are false OR uncorroborated. Steele's decision to go to the FBI with the findings -- so that they may corroborate and take appropriate action, supports the conclusion that the contents of the dossier are most likely true or Steele won't risk giving knowingly false information to parties that could have him arrested.

Naturally, since the FBI at the time was under the Obama administration, those who want to dismiss both Steele and the dossier just extend the malfeasance to the FBI, despite the potential for the FBI and the Obama administration to destroy Trump's candidacy by leaking the dossier contents whether true or not prior to the election. Hence, Trump and his allies theory of the case makes zero sense, but they can ignore that logic, too, or obfuscate it in a never-ending series of accusations and assumptions about other people's motives while giving a pass to their own.

So when you say "the duplicity of Steele is a fair target", I conclude you somehow got rolled by the unending stream of nonsense spewed on the right about the dossier. Their position on it is that it must be false because Democrats paid for it. At minimum, it must be dismissed because the Democrats paid for it. One could (and I will) counter that everything they say is false because they are Republicans. At minimum, everything they say can be dismissed because they are Republicans.

Everything about the attacks on the dossier are to muddy the waters and will likely prove successful because it is so easy. But it is provable that Trump and his associates colluded (in lay terms) and conspired (in legal terms) with Russia and key Russians so that both parties would get what they want. There are admissions on the record -- including via guilty pleas and Trump and his inner circle statements -- that would on their face prove the case. They can try to defend them by claiming irrelevance of the stuff of jokes, but that's a defense not evidence until cross-examined under oath.

The bottom line is that the Trump administration is awash with criminals of all stripes who are frantic to prevent the consequences of their actions from taking hold, and are using every means at their disposal to do so. This Nunes memo is just a recent and wholly silly example.