On Monday afternoon, House Republicans voted on party lines to release a memo which the Department of Justice warned was reckless and a threat to national security. The memo—which consists primarily of a series of allegations about the FISA warrant issued for Trump advisor Carter Page—does not include the supporting information needed to allow people to determine the truth of the memo. And Republicans voted to block another memo put together by House Democrats.
In doing so, Republicans took an active role in attempting to interfere with the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, and demonstrated that to protect Trump, they are more than willing to burn vital institutions to the ground. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi put it in a statement …
“Tonight, the House Republicans crossed from dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security into the realm of cover up. In doing so, they disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.
“Chairman Nunes’ memo contains significant inaccuracies and omissions that misrepresent the underlying intelligence and jeopardize the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement communities. Americans should be deeply concerned by Speaker Ryan’s sanctioning of this irresponsible decision and his complicity in allowing the Committee investigation to devolve into a sad political spectacle.
That line back there? That was the line between democracy and a single party autocracy where principles, rules, and even laws are secondary to the power of the ruling party.
“Republicans must cease their efforts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. House Republicans are engaged in a pattern of abdicating their constitutional responsibilities to the American people. Deliberately, the GOP refused to release the Democrats’ memo. Clearly, they are afraid of the truth.
The sound of democracy dying turns out to be the sound of Paul Ryan doing what he does best—not a damn thing.
The Democratic response to the Nunes memo was primarily authored by Representative Adam Schiff. Schiff is now receiving the usual Republican response to calls for honesty and open government.
Schiff told me his office has received obscene calls and death threats over what he calls a “Republican spin memo,” and said the right’s “reckless hyperbole is just so destructive of our democracy.”
The release of the memo to the public is up to Trump, but as the memo was created by Nunes to serve Trump’s needs in delegitimizing the entire Russia investigation, the odds that Trump won’t release it, tweet it, and wave it around like a fresh batch of WikiLeaks seem very low.
The danger that the memo represents go far beyond the damage it does to the Russia investigation, the FISA court, the FBI, the Justice Department. The distribution of this memo shows that Republicans can and will create a narrative from whole cloth, release it along party lines, and block any information that the public might use to check the validity of what they’re being provided. Under the chant of “letting people decide for themselves,” Republicans have made certain that people have only one set of facts from which to chose — a cherry-picked, carefully edited, highly distorted set of “facts” that serves their narrative.
As the Republicans were preventing the release of the Democratic memo or the underlying documents on their memo, Fox News was running in real time with the vote, with Sean Hannity calling the information in the Republican memo “the biggest political scandal in American history” and insisting that people will go to jail.
And considering the readiness with which Republicans discarded the rule of law, that seems entirely likely.