The House Republicans’ “Nunes memo” is now little more than a punch-line to a sad joke. The document was intended to help Donald Trump and his political operation, but it actually left the president and other Republicans worse off than they were before. Assorted GOP partisans predicted the document would dramatically alter the political landscape, but its relevance quickly evaporated.
And yet, Trump World isn’t quite ready to let it go. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday that the Justice Department’s inspector general will examine the Republican memo’s claims, exploring whether there were any abuses in surveillance of those in Trump’s orbit.
This seems wildly unnecessary since the Nunes memo presented no credible proof of wrongdoing, but for Donald Trump, the IG’s investigation isn’t nearly enough. Here was this morning’s odd presidential missive:
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
There are actually a few interesting aspects to this. The first is, Trump is pointing to “massive” FISA abuses that do not appear to exist. He clearly wants to believe those abuses are real, but what the president chooses to accept as fact and actual facts are often very different.
Second, it’s true that the Justice Department’s IG, Michael Horowitz, took office in 2012, but Trump’s apparent belief that only Republican officials can be trusted within the executive branch is impossible to take seriously.
Third, the frequency with which this president expects the Justice Department to go after his perceived political adversaries would be a genuine national scandal in a normal administration.
And finally, there’s poor Jeff Sessions, who keeps looking for ways to make Trump happy, but who just can’t seem to satisfy his erratic boss. As TPM’s Josh Marshall put it this morning, “Jeff Sessions is the dog Trump kicks when he’s frustrated about how things are going at work.”
Remember, the president reportedly threw an Oval Office tantrum in the spring, in which he called Sessions an “idiot,” in part because he wanted the attorney general to protect him from the Russia scandal, which became impossible when Sessions recused himself.
In the months that followed, Trump’s frustrations with the Alabama Republican didn’t fade. In September, the president hosted a dinner with conservative leaders, and when the conversation turned to Sessions, the president’s comments were “dripping with venom.” It was just one of many incidents in which Trump blasted his attorney general.
And now the president wants the public to know he considers the attorney general’s latest efforts “DISGRACEFUL!” If Jeff Sessions thought his loyalty to Trump would be rewarded, he now knows better.