Yesterday afternoon was a discouraging one for proponents of democracy. The Trump White House, for example, announced it had no intention of following a recently approved law on Russian sanctions. The deputy director of the FBI, after becoming a Donald Trump punching bag, was apparently forced from his post.
And in case that weren't quite enough, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee took their crusade to shield Donald Trump to unprecedented levels.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to make public a classified memo about some of the government's most sensitive secrets, prompting Democrats to accuse the Republican majority of playing politics with national security to protect President Donald Trump. [...]Trump has up to five days to object to the memo's release.
Since Trump has already made clear that he sees political value in the document, the outcome appears to be a foregone conclusion.
At issue is the so-called "Nunes memo." As we discussed yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who's embarrassed himself more than once as a Trump toady, has prepared a document intended to discredit the investigation into the Trump/Russia scandal.
And while the report, for lack of a better word, includes classified information, it's not a secret summary of intelligence officials' findings that the congressman is trying to bring to the public. Rather, the memo was prepared by Nunes and his committee staffers as part of a partisan exercise, intended to shift attention away from the White House by pointing the finger at the Justice Department, the FBI, Fusion GPS, and intelligence professionals.
Democrats have prepared a rival document that refutes the Nunes memo, though last night, Republicans voted against its release. Democrats also proposed a classified briefing from Justice Department officials and intelligence professionals, offering committee members a chance to go point by point, scrutinizing the Nunes memo for accuracy before its release. Republican voted against that, too.
A Trump-appointed official at the Justice Department recently described the move as “extraordinarily reckless,” but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used a different phrase last night: "Tonight, the House Republicans crossed from dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security into the realm of cover up."
NBC News' report added, "Whether the memo shows wrongdoing by the FBI or not, legal experts say the release of such classified surveillance details would be extraordinary on two counts: It could spill extremely sensitive secrets, and it could undermine the secrecy of a pending criminal investigation."
What's more, let's not forget that the GOP's document hasn't been vetted for accuracy. It also hasn't been vetted for its potential impact on an ongoing investigation or intelligence operations in general. Indeed, Republicans are acting against the express wishes of the Justice Department and the FBI.
We might expect rabid partisans to run interference for a scandal-plagued president, but this is a qualitatively different and more serious abuse.
Frank Figliuzzi, an NBC News contributor who is a former chief of FBI counterintelligence, said the Republican House members "are weaponizing and politicizing classified information."
Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA, added, "I am heartsick, as should anyone be who cares about democracy and our nation's security."
Republicans have, as House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) put it last night, "crossed a line."