“What’s happening in this country is a disgrace. A lot of people should be ashamed.” Donald Trump spoke those words on Friday. For once, I agreed, with him. What happened on Friday, February 9, was a disgrace, indeed. Trump, Devin Nunes, and every Republican House Intelligence Committee member who conspired to release the nefarious, contrived “memo” should be ashamed.
In case you’ve been battling the flu and have missed all of the drama, let me catch you up. House Intelligence Chair, and Trump lapdog, Devin Nunes drafted a memo claiming bias in the FBI’s Russia Investigation. Nunes based his claims on classified intelligence showing the Bureau used a partisan dossier (yes, THAT dossier) to get a wiretap warrant from a federal judge.
Was this something to get amped up about if you’re a conservative worried about the “Deep State?” I guess so, because it was so disconcerting the Committee voted to declassify and publicize the memo so Sean Hannity could share it with his drooling Fox News viewership, pending the President’s approval, of course.
Naively, I had my fingers crossed that Trump would do the right thing here and keep the memo private.The FBI had already released a statement of condemnation, noting, “we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
And political reporters saw an obvious line between the memo and Trump’s not-so-hidden goal of smearing and then firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who currently oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.
Naive indeed. “The Memo Drops” was the lead story on Fox News Friday. It’s now Monday, but I didn’t forget.
This shit feels like a juicy episode of Scandal, and damn do I wish Olivia Pope was here to clean up the mess. Unfortunately, though, its real (American) life. I am stunned, even after a year of this administration. I actually hoped that “45” would grow to respect our Democratic values. Instead, he signs off on the release of a memo that blatantly cherry picks information to share with the public, about a third of which will take the memo as gospel.
It’s absurdly hypocritical. The so-called “Law & Order” President continues to attack the preeminent law enforcement agency in the country, undermining generations of hard-built faith for some in our major institutions.
Trump’s actions hit me particularly hard. I don’t trust many things at face value, thanks to having spent too many years as an elected official, local/county employee, advocate and lobbyist. I know press releases and public statements are carefully crafted and often only show a sliver of the truth. However, I always felt I could trust documents from the highest levels of government, such as memos from the bipartisan Congressional Intelligence Committee. I never expected such disrespectful, blatant attempts to shape the public’s perspective.
Yet with the release, Nunes had the gall to claim, “the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes.” The irony could kill me. Hell, it still might. These actions may have irreparably broken the House Intelligence Committee, the elite group of lawmakers that is supposed to oversee the men and women ensuring our security. No more can they be viewed as the gatekeepers to the “sources and methods” kept secret behind the walls of the Pentagon. This moment, too, will be thrown onto the growing pile of abandoned norms smoldering in the corner of our democracy.
It is ludicrous and idiotic that “45” has the nerve to tweet out after the release of the politically motivated amateurish memo, “This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. There was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction.” Mr. Trump, your tweets distract the American people from the TRUTH.
We are seeing an authoritarian president who either truly believes there is a witch hunt after him, or knows, yet denies, that he did something wrong.
To that point, I am curious about what Democrats said in their counter memo, not that I believe the American public will ever have a fair chance to weigh that against the GOP scribe and decipher the facts for themselves. That might be a good thing. Playing politics with sensitive information might make for good headlines, but it leaves voters like me beyond disappointed and alarmed.
So, what should we do to survive these politically volatile times? Folks, prioritize your mental health, because this shit is draining. Every time it feels like we’re at our lowest, we get kicked in the gut. America is not a leader anymore. America is not trusted anymore. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for President Obama, recently said “Countries like Japan and South Korea who have banked their entire national security… the existence of their nations, on the United States being a rational actor, and [Trump]’s given that away in a year.” This memo only makes things worse, on a global stage.
Government power is overwhelming. Right now, we’re witnessing its misuse by those who seek to actively obstruct justice. Elected leaders with any sense of wisdom need to renew calls for legislation that protects Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired. If not, this partisan political play of the Intelligence Committee, and further nefarious use of our institutions, will be used to great effect at our expense.
This is a dark day in America, one of the most overtly politicalized moments in our history. We are seeing an authoritarian president who either truly believes there is a witch hunt after him, or knows, yet denies, that he did something wrong. He will continue to undermine federal institutions and lifelong public servants in pursuit of his defense. We need to know what the Russians did. Our sovereignty depends on it. We need to know what Trump and his family did. Our dignity depends on it. No one in this country is above the law. And this president cannot and shall not suppress a legitimate investigation into widespread potential misdeeds.
If this occurred during the Obama administration, I’m damn near certain “Law & Order Republicans” would never have dismissed this type of American betrayal. We must resist this attack on our country. The truth shall prevail even when a President disregards it.
Jeremiah L. Grace is a proven organizer and strategist based in ATL.