Republicans are the “law and order” party, yet they seem to have no compunctions whatsoever about destroying the FBI, DOJ or endangering national security. In a worse case scenario the release of the Nunes memo could cause a seismic change in both institutions of government, a foreshadowing of which was given on MSNBC today by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who said, “There’s going to have to be a change to certain practices and there’s going to have to be a change to some personnel towards the highest levels of the DOJ and FBI.” Andrew McCabe left a few days ago and it has been speculated that Christopher Wray would leave the FBI, and a mass resignation of agents would follow him. This is not business as usual.
The Nunes memo is just the latest escalation in an eight month long campaign to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation. Mueller’s team was accused of bias against Trump, first manifesting in the report that Mueller had illegally accessed copies of emails from the Trump transition. That accusation faded away when the General Services Administration said it had told the transition team that its emails wouldn’t be protected, and in the face of push back to absurd allegations, the Republicans gave up.
Then efforts were made to discredit the Steele Dossier. Next came the Strozk-Page frenzy, with the mention of secret societies and text messages that were purportedly deleted; again, there was a prosaic explanation and recently FBI forensics specialists recovered the text messages. Then Robert Mueller himself was accused of bias due to conflict of interests.
That takes us up to the heart of the issue, the Nunes memo, wherein it is claimed that the FBI improperly obtained authorization to conduct surveillance on Carter Page. Christopher Wray, appointed by Trump himself, said that the memo was inaccurate, due to material omissions of fact. The memo was lacking in credibility before Nunes altered it, after the committee had approved its release. Furthermore, the memo was characterized by the New York Times as a “dagger aimed at Rod Rosenstein,” and that brings us up to the present moment and a discussion of another Saturday Night Massacre. Politico via Common Dreams:
All this has built steadily toward a crisis for American democracy—a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion. Press reports suggest the president may be contemplating using the memo to dismiss Rosenstein. That matters: If the president were to use his powers to insert someone lacking independence, that person could throttle the special counsel.
That move would, however, risk deepening the president’s obstruction of justice liability, and that of those around him who are involved in the decision. After all, firing Comey on dubious grounds with the alleged intent to hamper the Russia investigation led to an obstruction investigation. Cashiering Rosenstein would offer a matching bookend. That is particularly so in light of another startling report today: that the president sought details about the Russia investigation from Rosenstein, then asked him, “Are you on my team?” This echoes Trump’s demand for loyalty from Comey that helped kick off the obstruction investigation.
Rosenstein’s failure to provide sufficient answers has put his head on the chopping block, with the president reportedly preparing to use the memo as a pretext. This targeting of the deputy attorney general also makes clear the larger motivations of the smear campaign. It is plainly obstructive of the Russia investigation. From Trump on down, the hope seems to be that the best defense will prove to be a good offense. This is exactly the playbook Trump used to run when he was a slick up-and-coming Manhattan developer taking advice from the late Roy Cohn: attack, attack attack. But this is the presidency, and Trump has failed to learn the lesson of Cohn’s previous client and patron, Joe McCarthy. It’s not going to go the way he thinks.
Trump’s recent refusal to enforce sanctions against Russia, even though Congress unanimously voted for same, is in flat out opposition to the rule of law. The constitution provides that the president will enforce laws made by Congress. He doesn’t get to cherry pick which laws he likes. That is autocracy and fascism, not democracy.
This level of flouting the constitution certainly constitutes impeachable offense in and of itself, and when coupled with the smear campaign emanating from the White House against the Trump-Russia investigation, the handwriting is on the wall. At the very least, we’re looking at a constitutional crisis, perhaps beginning with another Saturday Night Massacre scenario.