Republicans promised Americans that their much-hyped memo would suggest that the entire FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election is politically motivated.
“I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,’’ Trump told reporters Friday in the Oval Office. “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”
But after the memo’s release Friday afternoon, opinions on it are pretty consistent with what has happened for much of the past two years: Tribalism has prevailed. Or at the very least, people have doubled down on their previously held positions.
The Washington Post reports that the memo alleges a surveillance warrant was obtained and renewed on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page using information from an individual with an anti-Trump agenda — Christopher Steele, a former British spy who authored an infamous dossier.
The GOP memo charges that senior FBI and Justice Department officials manipulated a foreign intelligence court to surveil Page, something the FBI disputes.
But for many Americans, the four-page memo has more than enough to confirm their previously held beliefs on the issue.
Keith Boykin, who worked in the Clinton administration, said any suggestion this memo shows that the entire Russia investigation is politically motivated is false.
“Nothing — nothing at all — in the Nunes Memo exculpates Donald Trump from charges of obstruction of justice or Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Don Jr., or any other staff from charges of criminal conspiracy to collude with the Russians.
#MemoDay,” he tweeted.
And Democratic political analyst Bakari Sellers pointed out that the memo fails to reveal just how much other information was used to make decisions in the surveillance of Page.
“Y’all know the dossier wasn’t the only evidence used to get a warrant? I don’t even want Dem’s Memo. Let Page’s indictment stand alone,” he tweeted.
Before the release, the FBI said it had “grave concerns” about the memo because it leaves out important details in addition to painting an inaccurate, unfair portrait of its work.
But takeaways from conservatives pointed to the memo as the latest proof that their concerns about the motivations behind the Russia probe are valid.
And Sean Davis, co-founder of the Federalist, a conservative website, tweeted:
“Christopher Steele, the alleged saint behind the dossier, was terminated by the FBI because he ‘improperly concealed [evidence] from and lied to the FBI.’ And his credibility was the primary basis for a wiretap on an American citizen.”
Sohrab Ahmari, a senior writer at Commentary, a conservative magazine, said the “devastating” findings affirm what many critics of the FBI already believed.
“This is devastating. Unless there is really something to those ‘material omissions of fact’ — and it has to be really strong counterweight evidence — this vindicates the vision of a politicized bureaucracy out to sink Trump and his associates,” he tweeted.
There does seem to be one Republican who has fiercely come out against the release of the memo: Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).
The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. https://t.co/6dsbcBIla6
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 2, 2018
There are some arguing that opinions on government surveillance and spying on private citizens in general will determine how you respond to the memo.
But for many Americans, what you believe on the allegation that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia or that the president tried to obstruct justice will primarily determine how you view the actions of top officials at the FBI.
And the fact that the memo was written by staffers closely affiliated with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a member of Trump’s transition committee, will probably influence that.
The release of the memo didn’t end anything for the two parties in the feud over the investigation. It just raises more questions. But in a time of hyper-partisanship, it’s not yet clear that anything released about the actions of top FBI officials will change what Americans believe about Trump and how he got to the White House.