There was never much doubt that President Donald Trump would approve one way or the other the release of the memo by Republican House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes.
The memo doesn’t just rip the FBI for alleged intelligence wrongdoing in the Russia probe. It virtually exonerates Trump, deeply taints the efforts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to haul Trump into court, and to further place the FBI under Trump’s thumb.
Trump played the whole drama masterfully. He has remained mostly silent as the debate rages whether the memo should be released, and is, as Democrats say, horribly altered to paint Trump as the aggrieved victim of FBI overreach.
Then in another clever stroke, even after he approved its release, left it up to the House to determine when and how it would be released.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the House Republican majority will make sure that the counter memo by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff that sees no wrongdoing in the FBI’s action’s in the probe will die a quiet death. The Democrats will continue to loudly scream foul in this dirty partisan political sleight of hand, and demand Nunes ouster from the chair of his committee.
But, they don’t have the votes to do any more than that.
Trump and Republican leaders have chafed from the second that Mueller stepped on the scene and started digging hard into what Trump did or didn’t know and do with the Russians to tip the election to him. No matter how clownish, farcical and odious his antics have been before, during, and now in the Oval Office, he’s the party’s bread and butter man to retain congressional power.
He is the go to guy to ultimately get any part of their agenda shoved through Congress. He must be protected no matter what.
The Nunes memo must be seen against the backdrop of the Republican power grab and hold. If a big segment of the voting public believes that Trump cheated to get into the White House, and that he’s in cahoots with an avowed competitor, if not outright enemy, of the U.S — Russia — then a cloud will hang heavy over his administration. That could spell peril for the GOP in the crucial mid-term elections in November.
So, the GOP has as much of a vested interest as Trump in making the Russia probe go away. A big hint of that came last October, after the indictments of Rick Gates and Paul J. Manafort.
Trump quickly tweeted that they were long gone from his campaign. Therefore, any talk of collusion between he, Putin and any other shadowy Russians, to smear, slander and discredit Hillary Clinton was just more fake news.
His point was there was zero proof of collusion. The proof, of course, would have to be more than just an ex-Trump campaign official claiming that he ordered election tampering or that there is a smoking gun email or document around somewhere that showed his direct involvement in election tampering by the Russians.
The one thing that Mueller could do to bring the issue with Trump to a legal head is to subpoena him to talk to his office or, the even more remote possibility, to testify before a federal grand jury. If he did demand Trump appear and talk, then the worst that could happen is that Trump would lie under oath about an email from him, or a meeting that he or a member of his team had with an Russian official, in which there was talk of election manipulation.
That would certainly be the legal smoking gun that is required to nail Trump with a criminal charge.
But if the GOP can poison the well on this enough with the FBI malfeasance allegation, all of this becomes almost a moot point. Since the Justice Department and the FBI would be seen as untrustworthy, disreputable and on a witch hunt to nail Trump. This is the Trump line, and with the Nunes memo he’s got the paper to wave around to supposedly prove that.
Trump doubled down on this little charade with Nunes and the GOP House leaders by feigning worry over whether FBI Director Christopher Wray will resign or not when the Nunes memo is released. Who is this really supposed to fool?
Trump’s administration has been a comical revolving door with appointees and hires coming and going faster than the door can spin around. The resignation of one more official, FBI director or no, wouldn’t make a bit of difference to Trump.
He and the GOP are playing a long game with the Nunes memo and the Russia probe. And that put simply is make it go away. That would remove one more obstacle to their political power grab.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is “Fifty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.