Republicans: Release the Memo—or Shut Up

A classified, four-page memo outlining misconduct by the Justice Department and the FBI has scandalized Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans claim the memo proves what President Trump and people associated with his campaign have been arguing all along: that the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election was based upon nothing more than Left-wing fabrication.

If true, the memo could spell the end of Robert Mueller’s special investigation and turn the tables on the Democrats, including high-ranking members of the Obama Administration, and perhaps the former president himself.

Yet, when pressed for more information, the Republicans refuse to release details, citing the fact that the memo is classified.

Well . . . OK. So what? Aren’t these congressional Republicans capable of declassifying the memo? If not, couldn’t President Trump relieve them of the burden of keeping this incendiary information to themselves by simply declassifying the document himself? Failing that, is Congress totally powerless to do anything to release this information to the public?

Bear in mind, if what some Republicans are saying about the memo is true, then it would provide key evidence that the Obama Administration weaponized the FBI in an attempt to sway the last presidential election. Such a revelation could render the Democratic Party politically dead for a generation. Yet, the Republicans refuse to declassify the document.

Again, it’s not as if congressional Republican leaders or the president lack the authority to override the memo’s classification. If they want to, they can. It’s as simple as that.

What’s more, if the memo is as damning as many (myself included) believe it to be, our elected leaders—regardless of party—have a duty to release the information to the American people with due haste.

Democrats, notably House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), object that releasing the memo without the supporting documents that accompany it would be confusing and misleading to the public. Left-wing pundits have picked up on the theme, dismissing the Republican memo as conspiratorial hyperventilating.

Well, there’s only one way to find out.

There are ways that Congress could override the classification of the memo. The clearest path would be for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to call for a vote to release its contents.

But should that fail, what’s to prevent a congressman from reading it into the public House record?

I don’t usually advocate the release of classified information by Congress. In rare cases, however—and this one seems like a doozy—Congress has no choice but to present such “explosive” information to the American people.

During ordinary times, classified information can secure critical “sources and methods.” It helps to protect our republic. But if the information contained in the FBI memo proves that former President Obama misused his power to get the FBI to behave illegally to undermine an election and help the Democrats win, then the classification of this document only protects the perpetrators of this crime against the republic.

Besides, if a rank-and-file Republican member of Congress did publicize the document without authorization, he or she most likely wouldn’t face criminal penalties—especially if he were to read the document aloud on the House floor.

Although House members swear an oath of secrecy, they are also granted special free speech protections (to compel real debate in Congress). This protection is similar to the qualified immunity that attorneys (and civil servants) enjoy—they are shielded from damages for civil liability, so long as those attorneys did not violate an individual’s “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights.

So long as a congressman (maybe a member of the Freedom Caucus or Speaker Paul Ryan himself) issued a public statement in the House chamber detailing the contents of the classified memo, he or she would almost certainly be protected from criminal prosecution under longstanding House rules. As for any political fallout, it would be up to voters to decide whether truth is a defense.

The member also might have Supreme Court precedent on his side. In the 1972 case of Gravel v. United States, the court found that former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) was protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause when he read infamous the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. Of course, when Gravel acted, Daniel Ellsberg had already leaked the classified documents to major news outlets.

One difference: Senators don’t take the same secrecy oath that House members do. So if we want to be sticklers about it, the Gravel precedent in the Senate may not necessarily apply to the lower house. But given the high-profile nature of the case, it’s difficult to imagine any congressman suffering criminal penalties.

Bottom line: congressional Republicans should release the FBI memo—with or without formal approval—or they need to shut up. It’s almost criminal to lead the public on about the contents of this document, and then fail to share that information with the people.

About Brandon J. Weichert

Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report. He is a contributing editor at American Greatness and a contributor at The American Spectator . His forthcoming book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower is due out from Republic Book Publishers in 2020. His writings on national security have appeared in Real Clear Politics and he has been featured on the BBC and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @WeTheBrandon.

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20 responses to “Republicans: Release the Memo—or Shut Up

  • Agree. I’m so sick of hearing about it and nothing happening. Why can’t they just vote on it already?!!!

    • They aren’t in session until Tuesday of next week. It’s kinda hard to have a vote when the house Is in break till Tuesday. But hey why let little facts like that hurt the narrative. Since when has anything… good or bad… gone fast in the govt? U think it should or will start now? Cmon man.

      • They could have voted over the weekend when they were there. (Jim Jordan actually said they likely would). When did they go on a break?

      • According to Trey Gowdy on Tucker last night the delay is associated with Nunes’s idea of accommodating Schiff and the Dems by declassifying all of the evidence that supports the memo’s findings.

      • Upvote for the info, thanks!! But that’s BS. They just need to release what they have now.

      • Leadership could have very easily called everyone back. In fact, the mere show of that would indicate how serious the memo’s contents are. Maintaining business-as-usual is ridiculous and disrespectful to the American voter.

  • My view is that the problem is that the information is going to hurt the DOJ/FBI/FISA and they are trying to figure out how to reveal what needs to be revealed while doing as little damage to these institutions as possible.

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    • The point of the memo is that the DOJ/FBI/FISA are fully corrupted agents working to destroy the Republic. Are you suggesting that such agents should not be destroyed?

      • ‘Destroyed’ is not the term I would use. ‘Punished under existing law and regulations’ is how I would describe what needs to happen. As I said, I think the delays may be due to trying to protect the institutions. If it turns out the delay is trying to figure out a way to exonerate (or substantially mitigate the punishment) of actually guilty parties I would (a) be very surprised and (b) not supportive of such an outcome.

        It’s possible (even likely) that the abuses in the DOJ and FBI revealed some significant internal or ‘process’ issues. It’s possible that the Republican committee members are trying to craft solutions to the problems prior to the release of the description of the problems. Most adequate organization’s operate in this manner. The goal is to provide a description of the problem and the proposed solution to the problem at that same time.

      • When the very top management of an organization is fully corrupt and working to do the opposite of the mission of the organization, covertly, and has recruited personnel throughout the organization to implement the corrupt ends, then that organization is already destroyed. What it has been turned into by the corrupters requires that it be fully destroyed and. A new organization that is clean be created to replace it. It must be destroyed to demonstrate to all that the subversion of public institutions will not be tolerated. The most extreme punishments must be meted out to all who participated.

  • Agree. I’m so sick of hearing about it and nothing happening. Why can’t they just vote on it already?!!!

  • Indeed, this farce has gone on way too long. If there is criminal behavior expose it and do something about it. This is of a piece with Sessions’ apparent paralysis at DOJ. If they have evidence, they need to do their jobs and act on it.

  • Furthermore, if a patriotic republican
    believes the memo to be authentic,
    and not just a bunch of smoke meant to undermine Mueller, he ought to just leak it.

    Does anyone believe for even a second that if the tables were turned Dems wouldn’t have just emailed it directly to the NYT?

    Let’s be done this and let the chips fall.

  • “Such a revelation could render the Democratic Party politically dead for a generation.”

    Unlikely. The present nature of the left ignores corruption; the strength of the left will depend on the power of identity politics and the extent of dependency on government.

  • Such a revelation could render the Democratic Party politically dead for a generation.
    Surely you jest! [And don’t call me Shirley].
    Not one Democrat who voted [twice] for Barack Hussein is in the least perturbed by even the worst case scenario revelation(s).
    My best friend, a life long Democrat voter, and a very intelligent guy, recently told me “the President is as dumb as a cardboard box”.
    A language tutor my wife and I just retained, a very, very nice lady, tried to teach me the Italiano for “President Trump is an idiot” [to which I replied “and you would be mistaken”].
    The only memo I want to see is the indictment of those responsible for misrepresenting filings with the FISA court.
    Starting at the top.

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