Nunes memo reveals deep rifts in US politics

By Zhang Zhixin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/6 20:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US President Donald Trump's decision to release the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes on Friday has set the cat among the pigeons. The memo alleges that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were biased against Trump and in favor of the Democrats in the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. In rebuttal the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to disclose the Democratic memo.

Some media outlets think Trump wants to use the memo to undermine and discredit the FBI, easing the pressure that has built on himself after he was accused of Russian collusion. However, the US society has given a varied response to the memo and resistance has also been found against the move among Republicans.

The Nunes memo was written by Republicans alone and Democrats had protested against it before and after it was submitted to the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats thought that the memo's contents favored Trump and twisted the facts. They also wanted to write and release a Democrats' memo for the public as a counterattack, refuting point by point the contents of the Nunes memo.

However, because Republicans are in a majority on the committee, it voted for the Democrats' memo to be released only to the Congress, not the public. After the Nunes memo was released, some Democrats questioned its legitimacy, claiming it was no different from Nunes' blogs.

The Nunes memo has jolted the investigation into Trump's alleged collusion with Russia during the presidential election. It is the first time an official document has proved that the probe was started with materials provided by Democrats.

The memo shows that the Hillary Clinton group and the Democratic National Committee hired people to collect and sort out 17 materials related to Trump's ties with Russia during the 2016 elections. The contents of the materials shockingly allege that Russia trained Trump for decades, blackmailed him for his lascivious behavior during his trip to Moscow and forced him to adopt policies beneficial to Russia after he took office.

The former British agent, Christopher Steele, who provided those materials admitted that he was "desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president." From this point of view, perhaps the Democrats themselves made up Trump's ties with Russia and the investigation was an act of Democrats deception.

The Department of Justice and the FBI decided to investigate Trump group based on unwarranted materials. It not only hints at abuse of power but also shows the establishment's inherent hostility to Trump.

According to US laws, the FBI must apply to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for permission to monitor citizens. The memo says the FBI applied for permission but did not reveal that the materials were given by the Clinton campaign.

In addition, the memo also revealed that when the FBI submitted the application, it started the probe into Trump's allegedly immoral behavior during his Moscow trip without sufficient proof. On the whole, it proves that some people in the US system of justice harbored an inherent hatred of Trump who was considered anti-establishment.

Opinion varies inside the Trump administration on whether it was right to release the memo. Just before its release, the Department of Justice had warned Trump that the document can mislead citizens and will set a bad precedent of exposing government secrets. The FBI also denounced the Republicans' support for releasing the memo, claimed that monitoring of Trump was allowed in keeping with rules and the lack of key facts in the document would undermine its accuracy. An FBI agent said privately that Trump's decision to release the memo is no doubt a slap on the FBI's face and undermines the investigative body's reputation.

After the release, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain blamed Trump's decision, saying "if we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin's job for him." This proves that US political divisions have become so huge that an institution like the FBI which is famed for its neutrality has become a victim of brinksmanship.

The traditional constitutionalism that the US is known for has taken a hit because of Trump. New facts about the investigation continue to be exposed. Trump had initially hoped to stop the investigation by releasing the memo, but it will lend momentum to the probe.

The author is a vice research fellow with the Institute of American Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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