The Nunes Memo: An Excuse to Fire Rosenstein

The Nunes Memo: An Excuse to Fire Rosenstein January 31, 2018

The New York Times reports on the contents of that memo put together by Devin Nunes, which is still classified but may be released soon. It appears that it’s mostly a pretext for attacking, and perhaps to justify firing, Rod Rosenstein, who authorized the Robert Mueller investigation.

RodRosenstein

A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry…

Democrats who have read the document say Republicans have cherry-picked facts to create a misleading and dangerous narrative. But in their efforts to discredit the inquiry, Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, who served as a Trump foreign policy adviser until September 2016.

A handful of senior Justice Department officials can approve an application to the secret surveillance court, but in practice that responsibility often falls to the deputy attorney general. No information has publicly emerged that the Justice Department or the F.B.I. did anything improper while seeking the surveillance warrant involving Mr. Page.

The argument is apparently that the decision to renew the application of surveillance to the FISA court was based on the Steele dossier, but that does not actually appear to be true, or at least is only partially true. Previous reporting has said that Page was on the FBI’s radar because the counter-intelligence agents who record communications with Russian officials picked him up communicating with agents of their secret service.

And look, the FISA court is not exactly uncontroversial. I’ve been pretty critical of how it works myself many times. But if having recordings of an American citizen communicating with Russian FSB agents is not enough to justify such surveillance, especially when that American citizen is an adviser to the incoming president, what on earth possibly could justify such a warrant?

And remember, the only thing Rosenstein did was authorize the FBI to go to the FISA court and ask for the renewal of a warrant they had already issued. In order to get that extension approved, they would have had to show the judge that the wiretaps had produced important intelligence that was relevant to a national security investigation. The fact that the warrant was approved means they met that burden and that means Rosenstein was right.

They are getting incredibly desperate to undermine any person and any institution in order to protect Trump from this investigation. We are currently in the “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” phase of those efforts.

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