Friday, February 2, 2018

The take-home message from 'The Untouchables' for Trump - NObody picks a fight with the FBI and wins

Around noon ET on February 2nd House Republicans Release Secret Memo Accusing Russia Investigators of Bias reported the NY Times. See also this report at CNN.com, Disputed GOP-Nunes memo released. Snippets are from the CNN report.

Democrats have dismissed the memo as a “profoundly misleading” Republican document that’s intended to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by targeting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down earlier this week.

The release comes despite a lobbying effort from senior officials at the FBI and Justice Department , who argued that the memo contained inaccuracies.

The extraordinary decision to release the classified four-page memo with a never-before-used House Intelligence Committee rule escalates the partisan fight over the investigations into Russian election meddling and possible collusion. This will likely have major repercussions for the relationship between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill.

The memo’s release also threatens to further fracture the frayed relationship between the President and his Justice Department and intelligence community, both of which opposed the release of the document, which is based on classified intelligence. The FBI issued a rare public warning on Wednesday that the memo omits key information that could impact its veracity.

We’ll know about the consequences of this malevolent act by Trump, Nunes, and the other House Republicans as the full text of the memo becomes available. In the meantime, Eugene Robinson takes a guess at what may be in store for the authors and purveyors of the memo in his Washington Post column, Trump has picked a fight with the FBI. He’ll be sorry. Here are excerpts from Robinson’s column.

Presidents don’t win fights with the FBI. Donald Trump apparently wants to learn this lesson the hard way.

Most presidents have had the sense not to bully the FBI by defaming its leaders and — ridiculously — painting its agents as leftist political hacks. Most members of Congress have also understood how unwise it would be to pull such stunts. But Trump and his hapless henchmen on Capitol Hill, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have chosen the wrong enemy. History strongly suggests they will be sorry.

The bureau has no political ax to grind, and the attempt by Nunes and others to portray it as some kind of liberal cabal is comical. But it does have great institutional cohesion, a proud sense of mission, and a culture that inculcates the “us vs. the world” attitude that is so common among law enforcement agencies.

For example, take the Watergate scandal that brought down then President Nixon.

The day after what Nixon’s spokesman would call “a third-rate burglary attempt” took place, the FBI’s major-crimes duty officer, a supervisor named Daniel Bledsoe, opened a federal wiretapping investigation. According to Bledsoe, he received a phone call from Nixon aide John Ehrlichman ordering him to shut down the probe. His simple reply: “No.”

Now comes Trump. His oafish attempts to neutralize the FBI director he inherited, James B. Comey — trying to extract a Godfather-style loyalty pledge, asking him to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn, ultimately firing him — are potential fodder for what may be an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump being assembled by Mueller.

Comey wrote everything down. The FBI always writes everything down.

Do you see a pattern here? The idea that the likes of Trump and Nunes are going to put a scratch on the FBI with ludicrous innuendo — we’re supposed to believe the bureau is a nest of Bolsheviks? — and selectively edited memos would be laughable, if Mueller and his team were the laughing kind. Which they’re not.

Trump and his minions seem to think they can out-leak the FBI. Obviously they haven’t been paying attention.

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