On Wednesday, the FBI took the extraordinary step of creating an unsigned document—a document in the name of the whole agency, rather than any individual—opposing the release of the Trump–Nunes memo. This followed a visit to the White House from both FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to personally oppose the release. And overnight, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff discovered that the memo Devin Nunes gave to Trump, was not the same as the one that was voted on in the House.
… the document sent for public review had been secretly altered ... After reviewing both versions, it is clear the Majority made material changes to the version it sent to the White House, which Committee members were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved.
Schiff’s response to the memo makes it clear that Nunes changed the document after the vote in the House. Nunes now contends that the changes he made were “minor,” and that Schiff’s desire to have the House vote on the actual document they were transmitting was pointless—as it might well be, since in the effort to release this memo, House Republicans have ignored all previous processes and precedent, something Schiff talked about in a Thursday editorial.
Even during the most difficult of times, when Congress had seemingly lost the capacity to govern and partisan storms raged across Capitol Hill, the intelligence committees remained largely insulated from the nation’s increasingly self-destructive politics.
The House and Paul Ryan have followed Nunes off a cliff. And the real author of the memo has demonstrated his eagerness to go to war with his own agencies.
The long-simmering feud between President Trump and the Justice Department erupted into open conflict Wednesday when the FBI publicly challenged the president’s expected release of a contentious and classified memo related to the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. …
Officials said the FBI issued the statement knowing that it would probably not affect the decision. Within the FBI, many are resigned to the prospect that it will be made public soon but want to make clear their strong disagreement with the document’s claims and offer at least a general rebuttal, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
The handling of the memo—which is the fruit of cooperation between Nunes and the White House, created expressly for the purpose of demeaning both the FBI and DOJ—demonstrates just how badly the rule of law can be damaged by men who place their private concerns ahead of the nation. In a single week, Republicans have wrecked what remained of procedure and practice in the House, with Ryan turning a blind eye to blatant rules violations all to serve Trump.
Ryan, who has never served on the Intelligence Committee, seems not to understand the central bargain underpinning the creation of the intelligence committees after Watergate. In exchange for the intelligence community’s willingness to reveal closely guarded national secrets to a select group of members and staff for the purposes of oversight, the committees and the congressional leadership pledged to handle that information responsibly and without regard to politics.
That contract has now been spectacularly broken by the creation of a partisan memo that misrepresents highly classified information that will never be made public.
That stage is set. All the players are standing by. And Trump is about to raise the curtain. “Constitutional crisis” brings to mind something that happens in an instant, but events can unfold over days, or weeks, or months—until they hit a crisis point.