Around 1 p.m. (ET) on Friday, a reporter asked Donald Trump if he’d release the Democratic response to the Republicans’ discredited “Nunes memo.” The president didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” he replied. “It’s going to be released soon.”By Friday evening, that was no longer true.
Citing national security concerns, the White House on Friday formally notified the House intelligence committee that President Donald Trump is “unable” to declassify a memo drafted by Democrats that counters GOP allegations about abuse of government surveillance powers in the FBI’s Russia probe.
White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that the memo contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the intelligence panel to revise the memo with the help of the Justice Department. He said Trump is still “inclined” to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions are made.
In a missive the president almost certainly didn’t write himself, the tweet added that the memo’s Democratic authors knew it “would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency.”
Raise your hand if you believe Donald Trump personally wrote a tweet featuring the word “whereupon.”
Regardless, the president’s concerns might be marginally more credible if he’d raised similar questions about the Republicans’ memo two weeks earlier. His own FBI told the White House it’d be dangerous for the White House to approve the release of the “Nunes memo,” but Trump ignored the warnings, deciding to release the document before reading it. Now, when it’s a Democratic response, suddenly the White House prefers caution?
Let’s also note that the Democratic report couldn’t be too sensitive – since Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release to the public.
My concern is not that the public, without the benefit of the Democratic response, will fail to recognize the flaws in the GOP memo. As has become painfully clear, the partisan document prepared by the committee’s Republican staff has already discredited itself and effectively needs no further rebuttal. The entire fiasco has made Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) look quite ridiculous.
What’s more alarming is that Trump and his team vowed to support transparency and fairness, and as the Washington Post made clear, the president failed to honor that commitment.
After the House Intelligence Committee voted this week to release a Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured us that the White House would be evenhanded. “As stated many times,” Sanders said, “the administration will follow the same process and procedure with this memorandum from the minority as it did last week, when it received the memorandum from the majority.”
That is simply not what happened.
There was one standard for the Republican document, and an entirely different one for the Democratic rebuttal. The absurd memo reached the public, but the memo setting the record straight was blocked.
GOP lawmakers and the White House took the unprecedented step of declassifying information as part of a brazenly partisan exercise, but when Democrats tried to have their say, setting the record straight, Trump shut them down, at least for now.