Saturday, February 3, 2018

Nunes' Memo Is a Dud, a Nothing-Burger. So How Will It Serve Trump?

It took a while for it to hit me. If the memo is a collection of omissions, distortions, and half-baked assertions, why even do it? Because it's an act of evil genius.

If at first you don't succeed, lie lie again.

Devin Nunes is a knucklehead back-bencher from Fresno who fumbled his first foray into partisan hackery. Remember his unmasking of Susan Rice's unmasking that popped and fizzled last year? How, then, does he produce this diabolical memo that has the chattering classes with gums ablazing?

As with his first scheme, he likely didn't originate it or produce it. The Susan Rice unmasking was the work of two aides in the National Security Agency who have since been dispatched by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. That little charade flopped when it came out that there is nothing improper or unusual about such unmaskings, and in fact what was revealed was even more damaging to the Trump crew. The stunt forced Nunes to recuse himself from his committee's investigation, a recusal he nows handily forgets.

Now comes the "Nunes" memo. But is it even his work? The congressman went on Fox News and said that he hadn't even read the FISA warrants that is the underlying centerpiece of the memo, and word is his staff played an important role in drafting it. Also, when minority member Rep. Mike Quigley asked him if the White House had a role in its creation, Nunes refused to answer, literally. Now it appears Nunes may have asked Trey Gowdy (of Benghazi fame) to write the memo.

Presumably the memo had a purpose. Those in Congress who have looked at it for a while and those in the press who have looked at it since its public release yesterday have come to conclusions that fall along partisan lines. The left finds the memo preposterously empty of fact and purposefully misleading, and the right finds it "disturbing," "alarming," "disgraceful."

To my point: The vast majority of those in the press, intelligence experts, even people in today's DOJ and FBI, all agree that it's built on misinformation and magical thinking. It's a dud that doesn't even ring remotely true. So how can it work for the GOP and, more importantly, Donald Trump?

This answer is diabolically simple: Trump's base -- now also known as the Republican base -- accept it at face value. If you don't reject it as untrue, if you simply say, "Oh my God, look what they found out about the Russian investigation! Hillary did it!", then the memo becomes a genuine weapon Trump can wield against Rod Rosenstein or anyone building a case against him or his close friends and family.

If Trump's base accepts the truthiness of the memo uncritically, if Trump's allies on Fox News act as if the memo is gospel, and if his hook-line-and-sinker GOP pols wave the document à la Joe McCarthy, then it doesn't matter if it's a dud, a nothing-burger, a total fiction. It's a prop, for heaven's sake, a cudgel to pull out now or at the final ditch.

Trump has wielded one falsehood after another after another with, dismally, no small effect. It matters not that there's little to no truth in the Nunes memo. That was never the point.

This was the point:

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