After much controversy, the Nunes Memo has finally been released. It’s been dominating the news cycle for the past week, with the president tweeting about it, the #ReleaseTheMemo trending on twitter and the FBI releasing an official statement opposing it’s release. But what exactly does the Nunes memo say? Why is it so controversial? And most importantly, what are its implications?
What Is It?
The Nunes memo is a four page document written by Devin Nunes (R- California) that alleges abuses of power in the FBI investigation of ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted on whether it should be released. The vote turned in favor of its releasing and now it has finally made available for the general public.
Why is it so controversial?
Republicans believe that this memo is key evidence that the FBI investigation headed by Robert Mueller is biased against Trump and therefore can’t be trusted. They see the releasing of the memo to the general public as an act of transparency to the American people.
Democrats, on the other hand, point out that Republicans have repeatedly tried to undermine the investigation beforehand and this is just another attempt to do so. They claim that the evidence presented in the memo (by a long-time Trump ally) is cherry-picked to look the worst for the FBI and is not a true reflection of its efforts. Therefore, they believe it to be misleading and a diversion from the truth.
What does it actually say?
The full text can be read here, but here’s a basic summary:
When the FBI investigation applied for a warrant to surveil former campaign policy advisor Carter Page, they had to submit documents to be approved by the Department of Justice that would provide evidence to support their proposed surveillance. The memo states that the application documents were in large part based upon the infamous Steele dossier (the one that claims the existence of the so called “Pee pee tape”), whose research was partially funded by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton Campaign. It alleges that not only because is the information in the Steele dossier illegitimate because it was funded by the subject’s (Trump) opposition, but that Christopher Steele, the man in charge compiling the dossier is a unreliable source, implying that it shouldn’t be trusted anyway.
How accurate is the memo?
As Democrats have stated, there are a lot of details missing, which make the memo misleading. Perhaps the biggest point is that the memo makes it look like the Dossier is the single document used that determined the granting of the warrant, however more than likely that is not the case. Its attempt to discredit the Steele dossier are also largely baseless. Other omissions and usage of vague terms further blur the truth and ultimately, there is very little to support that shows any misconduct on behalf of the FBI or the Department of Justice.
What are the implications?
No one is quite sure yet. Now that the memo has been released and much of the hype has been proven unsubstantiated, it’s possible that very little will happen. Alternatively, the memo could be an excuse for Trump to fire senior FBI officials, Mueller and possibly Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The FBI then would become more of a division working for the presidency than an independent agency to check it. Hopefully it won’t come to this, as the precedent it sets could be a disastrous one.