After watching the Philadelphia Eagles fly, it’s a bummer to be brought back to earth for an update on our slow-motion constitutional crisis. For that I apologize.
The big question over the weekend was whether the laughable memo sponsored by Trump lickspittle Devin Nunes would somehow soil the credibility of Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe. The answer, of course, is no. The memo has the ballast of a feather in a hurricane.
So the real question — the only one that matters in our hyper-charged political environment — is whether Trump’s blind followers will finally see the light, whether they’ll admit that the memo was a dud and thus realize that the Russia probe is seriously legit.
But the answer, of course, is no. Delusional denial is a potent psychological condition, especially when it’s teed up by Dear Leader.
It doesn’t matter to Trump or his Trumpkins that the Nunes memo has been savaged by a slew of conservative pundits and elected Republicans. Pundit Bret Stephens said that only “morons” could possibly believe that the Nunes memo exposes a “deep-state” conspiracy. John McCain assailed the memo as a “partisan sideshow” and warned that “if we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.” Failed Benghazi-hunter Trey Gowdy said he remains “100 percent confident in special counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not in any way discredit his investigation.” Pundit David French said, “The memo does not torpedo the Russian investigation. It clears the decks for the special counsel to do his work” and continue to amass “copious amounts of alarming evidence.”
And it doesn’t matter that the Nunes memo deals solely with issues surrounding court-ordered surveillance of ex-Trump adviser Carter Page, during a time period that long predates Mueller’s arrival. And it doesn’t matter that all the federal surveillance court judges who repeatedly approved the warrants (having found probable cause for surveillance) were appointed by a conservative Republican, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
And it doesn’t matter that the Nunes memo failed to prove that the Page warrants hinged on bogus evidence in the Christopher Steele dossier. The Nunes memo, according to the advance hype, was gonna show that the FBI got the judges to say yes based solely on the former intelligence officer’s supposedly phony findings. The memo, according to the hype, would craft a “fruit of the poisoned tree” defense, contending that, since Steele’s findings were supposedly fake, the whole Russia investigation was thereby fake. (This kind of defense is a favorite of mob lawyers.) But the memo offers zero evidence that Steele’s findings are fake, nor does it mention that Steele’s backstage investigation was initially financed by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, on behalf of Republicans who wanted to block Trump’s ’16 nomination.
And it doesn’t matter that the Nunes memo admits, in a sentence buried near the bottom, that the FBI launched its Trump-Russia probe during the ’16 contest not because of the Steele dossier (which Trump’s echo chamber had long contended), but specifically because Trump adviser George Papadopoulos spilled the beans that summer about the campaign’s Russian contacts. It’s right there in the memo: “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”
And it doesn’t matter that former special counsels think the Nunes memo is a joke — like, for instance, conservative think-tanker Paul Rosenzweig, who investigated President Clinton during the ’90s Whitewater scandal. In his view, “the Nunes memo is not a serious effort at oversight … It fails to make its case — and fails quite badly at that.”
None of this matters to the Trumpkins who take their cues from Fox News. Sean Hannity, the lord of state-run media, has digested the memo and his froth runneth over. On Friday he blared: “It is absolutely shocking. It is stunning. This now is the biggest abuse of power, corruption case in American history. Now we have irrefutable proof of a coordinated conspiracy to abuse power.” It is a tragic fact of life in our increasingly fragile republic that such fantasy pap can be so easily pumped into the credulous minds of millions.
One of those minds is Trump’s. He appears to follow Hannity’s lead, not the other way around. On Saturday morning he tweeted about a memo that he clearly hadn’t read. With its misspellings and miscapitalizations, it looks like a ransom note: “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”
There’s an old saying, popular with defense lawyers: When the law is on your side, pound the law; when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when you don’t have the law or the facts, pound the table.
The crisis deepens as his pounding grows noisier.