Wednesday, January 24, 2018

For the Record: Devin Nunes and the Chamber of Secrets

Supposedly right near the bathroom where Jason Chaffetz caught the mountain troll. Next thing you know Chaffetz dropped out of school! Coincidence? Image via Pottermore.
Or is it Devin Nunes and the Poisoner of Azkaban? It's Mysterygate, the scandal so devastating we're not allowed to know what it is! Locked in a room in the Capitol that only House members can penetrate, a magical memo composed by Devin Nunes, the plucky young wizard and outlaw head of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee who's been running Trumplebore's Secret Army in the halls of Congress, detailing the FBI's campaign to spy on those simple citizens Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and catch them in their totally innocent activities! Or maybe, as Congressman Schiff said on January 18,
"The Majority voted today on a party-line basis to grant House Members access to a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation," Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel's top Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday.
"Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI," Schiff continued.
When I first heard about it last week it struck me as perhaps awfully convenient that Nunes and his minions had crafted a memo so classified that nobody outside Congress—not the press, not even the FBI itself or the Department of Justice!—could look at it to decide whether Nunes or Schiff was right about it, while the entire conservative movement led by Dinesh D'Souza and WikiLeaks and its Russian friends clamored for its release in the full knowledge that the release was going to be delayed as long as possible by Nunes himself. Then came Shutdown Weekend and the Women's March and I kind of forgot about it.

But it hasn't gone away, the Russian bots have been pushing the "#releasethememo" hashtag for all it's worth (though Twitter seems to be claiming it's more Republican than Russian), and the people who tell Emperor Trump what he thinks (including Donald Jr.) have been telling him he wants to declassify it. Which it's now being predicted he will do, though he hasn't looked at it yet himself, and though he is waiting for the House to vote on the question of whether he should do it or not.

Another thing that occurred to me on Friday was that the timing of the thing might not be unconnected with the  release last week of the unclassified transcript of HPSCI's interview with Glenn Simpson of the Fusion GPS firm, detailing not just the completely good-faith character of Christopher Steele and the composition of the famous dossier but also his own work on the financial relations between Trump and the Russian mafia and government, allowing us for the first time to put together a firm idea of how corrupt and criminal those relations might be. I thought I'd lay out what I tweeted then, for the record:

I think that's about it; all this churn and bother being, really, the delay of the memo's release until some new scandal has the base worked up.

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