Twilight of The Memo

The Memo wasn’t out for an entire 24 hours before Devin Nunes began backtrackng. He told a Fox News interviewer that no, he hadn’t seen the underlying evidence on which his memo was based (which we already knew, but which probably wasn’t clear to most folks).  All he knows about the underlying evidence he got from Trey Gowdy, he says.

You remember Gowdy, the guy who announced his retirement from the House right after he found out the memo probably was going to be released? Gowdy tweeted this yesterday after the big reveal:

 Helen Nakashima reports for WaPo that intelligence officials say the FISA court was, in fact, informed that some of the intelligence on the warrant application was underwritten by political entities. Although the warrant didn’t specifically name the Democrats, I’m sure the court was smart enough to infer that it would have been someone opposed to Trump who paid for the intelligence.

Many have pointed out that warrants are granted based on dodgy sources all the time — criminals, mobsters, terrorists. Surely Democrats are not outside those bounds. The reason there are warrants is not to go directly to indictment but to check out the intelligence and find out if it is true. Duh.

I already noted yesterday that some guy at RedState found an error in the Nunes Memo that seriously damages its arguments. And although most Fox News bobbleheads are still hyping the memo, I understand Shepard Smith pretty much tore the thing apart on the air yesterday.

Safe, centrist USA Today headlined reactions to the memo release as a backfire on Trump and the GOP.

When the House Intelligence Committee finally did its dramatic reveal of the so-called Nunes memo, several things were immediately clear — and all were bad for committee chairman Devin Nunes and President Trump , the man his efforts were ultimately intended to benefit.  …

…Most of the allegations in the Nunes memo had already been aired, and others were quickly discredited as misleading or undercut by other information that was excluded from the memo. Indeed, to the extent the document contained any surprises, it was the degree to which it actually undermined the attacks that the president and his allies had been advancing.

There’s a longer analysis at the Lawfare blog that’s worth reading all the way through, but I want to just point out a couple of spots. Here’s one:

To the extent that the complaint is that Page’s civil liberties have been violated, the outraged are crying crocodile tears. For one thing, it is not at all clear that Page’s civil liberties were, in fact, violated by the surveillance; the memo does not even purport to argue that the Justice Department lacked probable cause to support its warrant application. It does not suggest that Page was not, after all, an agent of a foreign power. What’s more, the only clear violation of Page’s civil liberties apparent here lies in the disclosure of the memo itself, which named him formally as a surveillance target and announced to the world at large that probable cause had been found to support his surveillance no fewer than four times by the court. Violating Page’s civil liberties is a particularly strange way to complain about conduct that probably did not violate his civil liberties.

Also, too:

But this notion has at least three big problems. First, it’s not remotely clear that anything in the contemporary Mueller investigation is the fruit of surveillance of Carter Page. For all we know, the surveillance of Page produced material of counterintelligence value that is utterly extraneous to anything related to the Mueller investigation. What’s more, if the complaint is that the surveillance of Page somehow amounts to surveillance of the Trump campaign (as Donald Trump Jr. Friday), the dates don’t add up: The FISA court granted the initial warrant against Page in October 2016, almost a month after he  at the end of September. Moreover, as Paul Rosenzweig  in Politico, a FISA warrant granted only weeks before the election would not have been able to produce any evidence until well after votes had been cast.

The other two problems are that “there is no legal basis on which to assert that a defective warrant against one person systematically delegitimizes an entire investigation” and “the memo itself falsifies the premise that the probe was the illegitimate offspring of Christopher Steele.”

Well, so much for that.

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