Nefarious or ‘Nothing Burger’? Our Oligarchy on the Nunes Memo

If you aren’t yet persuaded of the existence of a ruling class oligarchy in the United States today, the reactions to the release of the Nunes memo should prompt second thoughts.

The four-page memo made public last week by the House Intelligence Committee details abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department in obtaining a federal intelligence surveillance court’s permission to monitor Carter Page, a U.S. citizen who volunteered briefly with the Trump campaign.

As we now know, the “salacious and unverified” dossier (this is former FBI Director James Comey’s characterization from his June 2017 committee testimony, which the FISA memo cites) compiled by Christopher Steele for the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.”

The memo further notes:

Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s effort, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

How did our oligarchs react to such shocking news—news that would have sparked outrage and likely led to impeachment proceedings and prosecutions had the same story broke during the Bush Administration?

Eh… no big deal. With remarkable unanimity, the official channels of approved opinion dismissed the memo as a “nothing burger.” This is the same memo, remember, that Democrats and their mouthpieces in the kept media claimed just days before posed a dire threat to U.S. national security. Its very release to an ignorant public threatened the legitimacy of trusted institutions and could spur Trump to declare himself Lord Protector of the United States. Or something.

Steve Schmidt, the man who oversaw John McCain’s defeat to Barack Obama in 2008, likened the memo to “Al Capone’s safe and Geraldo—it’s a big nothing.”

NeverTrumper Bret Stephens—who has previously written half-joking columns about deporting American citizens and has argued for repealing the Second Amendment—called the memo a “nothing burger” where the “bun is missing, too.”

Stephens waves away the potential massive Fourth Amendment abuses by saying that Comey’s description of the dossier as “unverified” doesn’t make it “untrue.” (Ah, the old “fake but accurate” routine!) But why give it the benefit of the doubt? The only true thing we know for certain about the Steele dossier is that it was funded by the Clinton campaign and collected by a foreign agent who was also an FBI informant until he was caught leaking to the press.

Taking the silly “nothing burger” idiom to silly new heights, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It’s worse than a nothing burger; it’s like having nothing mustard.” Lieu, who thinks the Framers of the Constitution wrote and adopted the 25th Amendment (it was proposed in 1965 and ratified in 1967), said that the memo is “misleading” and full of “factual inaccuracies,” though he has not read a single word of the memo’s supporting intelligence reports.

MSNBC commentator and failed TV host Donny Deutsch didn’t get his approved talking points in time, however, and he reported breathlessly,  “Our democracy is under siege.” He then called Trump a “dictator” and issued a call to arms: “We need a revolution here.”

Establishment mouthpieces in the media keep talking about how Trump threatens the integrity of our sacred democratic institutions. But those institutions were in peril long before Trump arrived on the scene. And the truth is, the only people talking seriously about “revolution” these days are in #TheResistance. Don’t forget, too: The House Intelligence Committee memo became public through constitutional and democratic means, rather than through the ruling class’s preferred method of unlawful leaks and innuendo. Who’s the real threat to our democratic institutions here?

Former FBI Director Comey, a man who has shown levels of pomposity and arrogance above and beyond those of mere mortal men, called the FISA abuse memo “dishonest and misleading.” Says the man who signed off on multiple warrants to continue surveillance of Page based on documents whose veracity Comey himself has called into question.

David French of National Review jumped on the fact that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) didn’t personally read the memo’s underlying intelligence reports. Scratching desperately for something resembling wit, French wrote:

But what French leaves out of his Adam Schiff-approved talking point is that the House Intelligence Committee had an agreement with the Justice Department to let only one committee member review the supporting materials. And that man was none other than former federal prosecutor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Nunes told Fox News’ Bret Baier that he chose Gowdy for his background and experience as a former federal prosecutor.

Gowdy, Nunes, and committee staff collectively wrote the memo and shared its contents with the entire House Intelligence Committee and, later, all House members. FBI Director Christopher Wray also reviewed the memo before its release. Two other senior FBI officials who vetted the memo said they “could not point to any factual inaccuracies.”

The unanimity of opinion from the oligogues on both the Left and the “conservative” Right demonstrates the strength of the gravitational pull of our contemporary groupthink. When ruling class interests capture the American mind, the bulk of Americans lose. Listen to cable news or read the opinion pages of major newspapers. There you will find Americans’ mores and character under incessant attack. Common sense is nothing. Expertise is everything.

Never mind the conventional wisdom of the commentariat. Congress has a duty to oversee the executive branch—that’s part of the “checks and balances” the Constitution’s framers envisioned. The FISA abuse memo provides the basis for a long and intensive investigation of top officials (current and former) at the FBI and the Department of Justice. How have political considerations altered their judgment and work? Americans have a right to know.

What’s more, Congress would also do well to examine the workings of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court in light of the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards American citizens in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Between 1979 and 2015, the court has approved practically every FISA warrant application the government has submitted. That was 1,457 applications in 2015 alone.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Let it be so with the memo. The movement to take back our government from the oligarchs and put sovereignty back into the hands of the people with steadfast fight and perseverance is at the end of its beginning.

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