Leak War: Explaining Five New Developments in the Never-Ending Memo/Investigations Firestorm

Confession: It’s literally my job to follow national politics closely, yet I find myself perilously close to losing the plot — and a great deal of interest, frankly — in the ongoing investigations and ‘memo’ wars roiling Official Washington these days, most of which are fueled by back-and-forth anonymous leaks.  Here’s my good-faith effort to bring you up to speed on a confounding blizzard of new twists and turns.  Don’t quit reading before you get to item number five:

(1) Top FBI and DOJ officials have asked House Republicans and the president notto “release the memo.”  Both FBI Director Christopher Wray (last heard from forcing ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out over yet-undisclosed Inspector General findings about the Bureau’s Hillary probe), and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who appointed Mueller and is overseeing the special counsel investigation) say the memorandum written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee paints an inaccurate picture of the relevant issues and makes crucial “material omissions.”  This echoes the complaints of Democrats, who have written their own counter-memo, the public release of which the GOP contingent of the committee voted down on Monday.  But other senior law enforcement sources have told other reporters that the Republican document does not contain any factually false information.  I’ve said it several times at this point, but it’s worth repeating: Let’s see both partisan memos, along with as much of the (redacted) underlying intelligence as possible.  This selective game of telephone is getting exhausting.

Also, this may sound like hackery to some on the Left, but consider it anyway: How is the House GOP’s desire to release details they find important or helpful to their interests materially different from any pieces of the nonstop leak-fest we’ve witnessed over the past year?  Virtually all of the information over which the media has obsessed has been partial, cherry-picked, and released (often via unnamed sources) in furtherance of some sort of agenda.  Republicans are at least being relatively transparent about what they’re doing here, and are pursuing their “leak” through proper and official channels.  So there’s one material difference.  As I said above, they should also authorize the release of the Democrats’ memo, so we can judge the information’s credibility, based on more information and context.  And by the way, does anyone believe the Democrats’ memo won’t leak in very short order anyway?

(2) Trump reportedly demanded to know if DAG Rosenstein is ‘on his team.’  Trump obviously expects loyalty from his own appointees — but, yes, he also doesn’t seem to fully understand or respect the importance of an independent Justice Department.  I fully concede that any moves Trump may appear to be making toward undercutting Mueller’s chain of command or legitimacy is cause for some concern.  But John Podhoretz, a frequent Trump critic, makes a solid point in response to those wringing their hands over this particular report:

Rosenstein is a political appointee. The president asking if he is “on my team” is not exactly an indictable offense here. What did Eric Holder say about Obama again? “I’m still the president’s wingman”?

(3) Ranking House Intelligence Democrat Adam Schiff says the White House is reviewing a doctored memo.  He claims the version currently under scrutiny at the White House (Trump told a member that he ‘100 percent’ supports its publication as he departed the State of the Union on Tuesday night) is not the finalized memo on which the committee recently voted.  Chairman Nunes made changes, Schiff asserts.  That might be a big deal.  Or it might not:

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@ByronYork

Just talked with House Intel source. Said total changes to memo were: A) Unknown number of ‘grammatical and clarifying’ fixes. B) One change requested by FBI due to sources & methods concerns. C) One two-word change requested by Democrats for accuracy. House Intel GOP statement

It’s almost as if Schiff is desperate and disingenuous, raising a stink over alterations, some of which he’d requested (he also insisted that the FBI review the memo prior to any potential publication).  This isn’t the first time someone has passed off dubious or debatable information to the press in recent days in or order to make Nunes look like a bad actor:

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The transcript of Monday’s House Intel meeting was just released, and it shows the exact opposite of what was claimed in this @DailyBeast article from yesterday. https://www.thedailybeast.com/devin-nunes-wont-say-if-he-worked-with-white-house-on-anti-fbi-memo 

 

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