Presidents usually make news during their State of the Union addresses. Last night, Donald Trump appears to have made some news while exiting the House chamber.
As he exited the House Chamber Tuesday night, President Donald Trump seemed to guarantee a Republican congressman that he would release a classified memo believed to show the FBI abused its surveillance program.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who waited hours to guarantee an aisle seat that would allow him to greet the president, can clearly be heard telling Trump to “release the memo.” The memo was produced by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes.
“Don’t worry. One hundred percent,” Trump can be heard saying.
At issue, of course, is the “memo” prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his aides, which by all accounts, intends to protect the White House from the Russia scandal by redirecting suspicions onto the Justice Department, the FBI, Fusion GPS, and intelligence professionals.
Republicans on the committee voted this week to release the document, which includes classified information, over the objections of federal law enforcement officials. The memo hasn’t been vetted for accuracy or for potential security risks.
The president has some authority over what happens next, and he’s faced pressure from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray not to allow the information to be exposed to the public, but if his comments last night were accurate, Trump has already made up his mind.
What about White House assurances that a careful and deliberative analysis is underway? Either those assurances were a sham or the process was completed with incredible speed. (It was supposed to take “several days.”)
To be sure, this isn’t a surprise, per se. Trump had already made clear that he sees political value in the Nunes memo, so concerns about compromising the FBI’s intelligence-gathering techniques were easily cast aside.
But that doesn’t make the president’s casual carelessness about this any easier to accept.
Postscript: The Daily Beast reported yesterday, “The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee refused to answer when a colleague asked him if he had coordinated his incendiary surveillance memo with the White House.”
That seems like a question we should get an answer to – quickly.