COMMENTARY: Nunes memo worse for Obama than Trump

If what the Nunes memo says is true, the United States has suddenly become a very scary place. In Russia, Iran and Venezuela, the rulers simply delete their opponents from the ballot.

In the United States, the outgoing, incumbent administration orders, or condones, an FBI investigation of its opponents and then suggest they are colluding with foreign governments to steal the election.

The presenting allegation, as described in the memo from the House Intelligence Committee, is that the FBI and the Justice Department sought a warrant to tap the telephone and otherwise surveil Carter Page, a somewhat minor adviser to President Trump’s campaign in 2016. No less than Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the committee that without the dossier compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele, no warrant would have been obtained.

What they failed to tell the federal judge who granted the warrant was that Steele and the dossier were paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Opposition research, that is. And that, further, nothing or almost nothing in the dossier was true, or verified as true.

In other words, a warrant to wiretap an American citizen was granted on the basis of false information. One assertion has it that Mr. Page was in the FBI’s “sights” as early as 2013. It is true that Page has had business dealings with Russia.

Reid K. Beveridge

By that standard, the FBI should have been investigating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson, it will be remembered, was chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon/Mobil, the oil company. As such, he made several business deals with the Russians. He even got some sort of medal from Russian President Vladimir Putin. What was wrong with that? Nothing, obviously.

Carter Page, on the other hand, was a minor player in terms of business dealings. However, he was somehow suspected of being a Russian agent. OK if so, then get a FISA (the secret intelligent court) warrant based on that. Nothing about that suggests that the Steele dossier had anything to do with Page’s business, or even with his connections, whatever they were, with the Russians.

This whole situation seems to be one where truth and good sense are turned on their heads. During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump was accused of being too friendly with the Russians and Putin, based principally on two statements. One was “Wouldn’t it be better have better relations with the Russians?” The other had to do with Trump’s comment that Putin had been a stronger leader of his country than President Obama was for the United States.

Two comments: The first question answers itself if you think about it. The opposite would be “wouldn’t it be better to have worse relations?” Regrettably, the second question has a poor answer, too. That is that Putin truly has been more effective than Obama. You may disagree. But that in and of itself doesn’t make Trump a buddy of Putin’s.

What came next was that the day after the 2016 election, the defeated Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, began to charge that Trump had colluded with Putin to steal the election. Some, perhaps many, Americans take this as truth these days. Of course, it is true that the Russians did their best to disrupt that election. But if the Russians thought they would benefit from a President Trump versus Mrs. Clinton, they seem to have been double-crossed.

Now a year later, what we find is that rather than the Russians colluding with the Trump campaign, it was the Obama administration spying on the Trump campaign that seems to have been the crime actually committed. One has to hope that lying to a federal judge is some kind of offense. If it’s not perjury, then surely it must be contempt of court.

But leaving this brouhaha aside, the better question is broader. Is this sort of thing something the FBI and the Justice Department do often to people they just don’t like? One can understand FBI agents and Justice prosecutors having political opinions. We all do.

However, it is when they use their official and rather overwhelming powers to act on those opinions, to act to oppose or even remove a duly elected official that it gets really scary. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has even suggested the FBI and Justice may be contemplating some kind of revenge against Congressman Nunes and his allies.

Now that’s scary.

Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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