“The memo” backfires, debunks GOP’s own attacks on Russia probe


The GOP's entire anti-FBI conspiracy theory just fell apart, thanks to the GOP's own memo.

The GOP's wildly overhyped intelligence memo, which was designed to undercut the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller, not only turned out to be a dud — it backfired so spectacularly that it ended up undermining the GOP's already flimsy case against the Russia probe.

Just a few hours after its public release, the memo already represents a stunning failure on the part of Donald Trump and his Republican allies. If this erratic blueprint was supposed to act as a defensive mechanism to protect Trump from his burgeoning political and legal woes, the White House needs to find a Plan B.


The story the White House and its radical congressional allies wanted to tell with the memo went something like this: Under President Barack Obama, the FBI became politicized and its leaders set out to destroy Trump's 2016 campaign by using partisan intelligence to spy on Trump adviser Carter Page.

That's the gotcha storyline the memo tries to lay out.

Yet even though the memo is just four pages long and short on specifics, those four pages are packed with so many obvious contradictions that instead of setting the narrative, the memo demolishes the GOP's narrative.

Specifically, Republicans claim the so-called Steele dossier was central to the FBI's surveillance of Page, and that it was the dossier that triggered the FBI to start investigating the Trump campaign. Furthermore, because the dossier was funded in part by Democrats, the GOP alleges that the FBI had an anti-Trump bias when it went to a FISA court in 2016 and asked a judge to renew the surveillance warrant already in place on Page.

From there, desperate Republicans tried to argue that because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was involved in the FISA request, that meant he was unfit for the job, which meant Trump could remove him, which meant the White House would be able to install a new person inside the Department of Justice to oversee Mueller's investigation — replacing Rosenstein as the top DOJ official in charge of the Russia probe.

Not only does all of that represent an astonishingly convoluted strategy, but Republicans couldn't even pull off the first part, which was to use the memo to implicate the FBI.

First, a comprehensive FISA request would never rely solely on a single document like the dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Second, Friday's Republican memo specifically acknowledges that the triggering event for the FBI's Russia investigation in 2016 wasn't the dossier, but the suspicious activities of a different Trump adviser — George Papadopoulos.

As former CIA analyst Ned Price said on Friday afternoon, "Democrats should be showering gifts on Devin Nunes for this memo because it disproves one of the key talking points: Namely that the Steele dossier was the predicate to launch the investigation into Donald Trump in the first place."

We've actually known since last summer that Papadopoulos' actions caught the FBI's attention and ultimately led the bureau to start a counterintelligence investigation looking at the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. However, Trump and his Republican allies have tried their best to suppress this fact because it doesn't fit into their narrative.

But now, thanks to the GOP's wayward memo, the spotlight is now shining on the one key detail that Republicans wanted to keep in the dark.