WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks to reporters during a press conference at the...
Win McNamee

Just when it seemed the GOP’s Nunes memo couldn’t look worse…


For months, the line from Trump World and its allies was that the federal investigation of the Russia scandal was initiated by Christopher Steele’s dossier. Last week, at the president’s behest, Republicans unveiled their “Nunes memo,” which showed that the GOP’s favorite talking point isn’t true.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/5/18, 9:05 PM ET

Nunes memo stunt blows up in GOP's face

Rachel Maddow shows how key claims in the Nunes memo didn’t even survive the weekend before being disproved, and the memo is now both a political and legal can of worms for Republicans to deal with.
Never mind that, Republicans said. It was time to move on to their next big talking point: when the FBI sought court warrants to scrutinize one of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisers – a suspected agent of a foreign adversary – federal law enforcement failed to notify the court of the political origins of the Steele dossier.

The allegation wasn’t a peripheral point: this was the cornerstone of the entire Republican memo. By failing to notify judges of the dossier’ political context, GOP officials insisted, federal law enforcement committed a grave abuse.

Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who’s responsible for the creation of the Nunes memo, conceded that the point his document explicitly attempted to prove, isn’t quite right.

Republican leaders are acknowledging that the FBI disclosed the political origins of a private dossier the bureau cited in an application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, undermining a controversial GOP memo released Friday and fueling Democratic demands to declassify more information about the bureau’s actions.

According to Nunes, the FBI may have notified the court, but the information was in a footnote, so it doesn’t really count. In effect, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has gone from accusing federal law enforcement of withholding pertinent information from a judge to arguing that the pertinent information wasn’t in a large enough font.

For crying out loud, can’t anybody here play this game? Is Nunes trying to look ridiculous?

At face value, the point Republicans are desperate to push isn’t even a good one: as legal experts have already explained, information from politically motivated sources can be used to obtain a warrant. But Nunes and his cohorts are going a step further, pushing an underwhelming argument and conceding that their argument isn’t quite accurate.

While GOP leaders continue with their efforts to figure out which way is up, the process will move forward. As Rachel explained on last night’s show, the Intel panel has approved the release of a Democratic refutation of the Nunes memo. The document has now been sent to Donald Trump, who has five days to decide whether to declassify the document – and yesterday, the president seemed to suggest he may decide against disclosure.

For his part, Nunes went on Fox News last night, stuck to the script the White House wants the congressman to read, and told a national television audience there was “a clear link” between Russia and Democrats during the 2016 campaign.

The poor guy apparently thinks the way to restore his shredded credibility is to sound even more like the president he’s so desperate to protect.

Intelligence, Russia and Scandals

Just when it seemed the GOP's Nunes memo couldn't look worse...