President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Nunes gave Trump ‘secretly altered’ version of memo Davis: ‘Deep state’ existed in ’16 – but it elected Trump Former Trump legal spokesman to testify to Mueller about undisclosed call: report MORE on Monday doubled down on his contention that a controversial memo released last week exposed deep political bias at the highest reaches of law enforcement — but some Republicans are dissenting.
Trump insists the memo, written by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSchumer: Nunes intent on undermining ‘rule of law’ with altered memo Schiff: Nunes gave Trump ‘secretly altered’ version of memo Former GOP rep rips Nunes over memo: He’s chair of Trump’s reelection campaign MORE (R-Calif.) and alleging misdeeds at the FBI and Department of Justice, helps his case that the broader probe into Russia’s election meddling spearheaded by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is a “witch hunt.”
Democrats scoff, but some Republicans back that position whole-heartedly.
Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGOP rep invited alt-right activist to the State of the Union Ryan urges lawmakers: Don’t overplay memo MSNBC analyst to Dem rep: Has Nunes been compromised by the Russians? MORE (R-Fla.), who is among the lawmakers who have been most supportive of Trump, told The Hill, “I think the Mueller investigation is intractably infected with bias, but I think it would be a mistake to view the memo solely in the context of the Mueller probe.”
Yet a number of Republicans — including some outside the ranks of Trump’s usual critics — have broken from the president’s line.
The memo is primarily focused on how a dossier funded by Democrats and prepared by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, was used in the FBI’s application for a surveillance warrant on Carter Page in 2016. Page had been an adviser to the Trump campaign.
“There is a Russia investigation without a dossier,” Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Cybersecurity: GOP, FBI clash over FISA memo | Uber breach under Senate scrutiny | Upcoming House cyber diplomacy hearing Several lawmakers have seen intelligence behind Nunes memo CNN spokesman fires back at Hannity over guest’s comments: ‘This is rich’ MORE (R-S.C.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. Gowdy added that the dossier “doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice.”
Other leading Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSchumer: Nunes intent on undermining ‘rule of law’ with altered memo Schiff: Nunes gave Trump ‘secretly altered’ version of memo Several lawmakers have seen intelligence behind Nunes memo MORE (Wis.), were pumping the brakes on the most grandiose pro-Trump claims about the Nunes memo before it was even released. On Thursday, Ryan asserted at a news conference, “It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.”
Among the other Republicans who have expressed skepticism, albeit of varying intensity, are Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhat Trump didn’t say in his State of the Union address Trump signs order to keep Gitmo open Trump’s pick for NY prosecutor scrutinized MORE (Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP lawmakers describe terrifying scene at train crash GOP lawmakers help people injured in train crash One killed after train carrying GOP lawmakers hits truck in Virginia MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSeveral lawmakers have seen intelligence behind Nunes memo Tourism companies use ‘s—hole countries’ remark to promote tourism in Africa Trump signs order to keep Gitmo open MORE (S.C.) and Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCrowded primaries loom in Texas House races Dem whip pushes back on ‘four pillars’ approach to Dreamers Texas Democrat slams border wall, links GOP opponent to Trump in new ad MORE (Texas), Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupGOP lawmaker who treated train injuries discusses the accident GOP lawmakers help people injured in train crash When it comes to treating depression, ‘step therapy’ is a costly misstep MORE (Ohio) and Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartTop Intel Dem: Lewandowski refused to answer questions in testimony House headed for cliffhanger vote on NSA surveillance Week ahead: House jumps into national monuments fight MORE (Utah).
Gaetz acknowledged his differences with party colleagues, even though he suggested there were more profound points of agreement.
“I disagree with the conclusion that Speaker Ryan and Chairman Gowdy have drawn, but I think it would be ill-advised to get lost in that,” he said.
The release of the Nunes memo has fueled speculation that Trump could move against Mueller or — in perhaps a more likely scenario — seek to oust Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinOvernight Cybersecurity: GOP, FBI clash over FISA memo | Uber breach under Senate scrutiny | Upcoming House cyber diplomacy hearing Trump asked Rosenstein about Russia probe, if he was on Trump’s ‘team’: report Nunes fires back at FBI for ‘spurious objections’ to memo release MORE, the deputy attorney general.
The White House has denied any such moves are afoot, a point reiterated by principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah when he spoke to reporters on board Air Force One on Monday. Shah said there had been no “consideration” given to moving key personnel at the Justice Department.
Democrats have warned that any move against Mueller or Rosenstein would precipitate a constitutional crisis.
Still, Trump’s tweets earlier in the day revealed a president deeply resentful of the way the probe has been conducted — and the degree to which it has overshadowed his time in office.
Trump tweeted that Nunes was “a man of tremendous courage and grit [who] may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed.”
The president also took aim at Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchumer: Nunes intent on undermining ‘rule of law’ with altered memo Schiff: Nunes gave Trump ‘secretly altered’ version of memo Several lawmakers have seen intelligence behind Nunes memo MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Schiff has pushed a Democratic memo aimed at refuting the Nunes document, and the Intelligence Committee voted Monday evening to release it. Shah said the White House would “consider” consenting to such a release if Congress pushed for it.
Another Republican congressman, Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), said on Monday that the Democratic memo should be made public.
But the president took a much more negative tack on Twitter Monday.
“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with [James] Comey, [Sen. Mark] Warner [D-Va.], [John] Brennan and [James] Clapper!” Trump said, referring to the former FBI director, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a former CIA chief and a former national intelligence chief, respectively.
The president added to the incendiary tone of the political discourse in an unrelated matter on Monday. Speaking in Ohio, he accused Democrats of “treason” for not having reacted more enthusiastically to his State of the Union speech last week.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) shot back on Twitter that Trump “doesn’t know what ‘treason’ means.”
The president continues to enjoy the backing of the clear majority of Republicans, both inside and outside Congress. His approval rating with GOP voters is around 80 percent in most polls.
But among Republican observers who are critical of him, the latest controversy is the clearest example yet of how the party has lost its way.
“Too many Republican leaders are afraid of taking on Trump or taking on Trump supporters, and so they are not willing to call out Nunes and this entire corrupt effort,” said Peter Wehner, who served in the administrations of the three most recent Republican presidents before Trump.
“This is just part of the decline of the Republican Party under Trump,” Wehner added. “They hitched their wagon to him, so he goes down and they go down with him. They just can’t seem to find the courage to break from him.”
Trump backers like Gaetz clearly don’t believe a lack of courage has anything to do with it.
“I think he was vindicated in the broader argument that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. The memo demonstrates the rotten core that the Mueller investigation is built on,” Gaetz said.
Trump, as usual, is not backing down. Whether that will deepen GOP divisions or ultimately bring the party even more firmly to his side is anyone’s guess.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.