February 2, 2018

Chuck Todd may have had a temporary lapse where he behaved like an actual journalist for once and quit with his typical "both siderist" nonsense we typically hear from him in regard to this dud of a "Nunes memo" that was released this Friday.

Sadly, that didn't stop him from allowing two of the so-called "Freedom Caucus" members to come on his show later that same day and lie and spew conspiracy theories about what the memo supposedly said and about who paid for the Steele dossier that Republicans have been desperate to use to discredit the entire Mueller investigation.

Todd brought on NC Rep. Mark Meadows and OH Rep. Jim Jordan, two of the biggest flamethrowers in the United States House, and asked them to defend their recent statements about what was supposed to be in this memo before it was released -- which they were both hyping and exaggerating on a daily basis for days on end -- and rather than challenge them when they just continued to lie right to his face about what triggered the investigation into Carter Page and who paid for the dossier, he let them ramble on and continue to do their best to help Nunes and Trump muddy the waters in the Mueller investigation.

The Democrats have released a statement explaining why the talking points being recited by Meadows and Jordan are nonsense, but Todd failed to push back at any of them. Here's more on that from Think Progress: The 3 big lies in the Nunes memo, according to Democrats:

On Friday, House Republicans and Donald Trump decided to release the Nunes memo, which purports to expose corruption and partisanship within the Department of Justice and the FBI. It suggests that surveillance of Carter Page, a one-time adviser to the Trump campaign, was based in part on a dossier funded by Democrats. The memo, taken at face value, falls well short of the hype. [...]

The heart of the memo is that the surveillance of Page would not have been possible without the Steele dossier. The memo says, “Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information.” Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say that is not true.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member, also confirmed that only portions of the dossier were presented to the court and some of that information already had “corroboration.”

The memo says that the surveillance court was not notified that funding for the Steele dossier came from supporters of Hillary Clinton. “The application does not mention Steele was working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and the Clinton campaign,” the memo reads. A statement released by Schiff says claims “that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him” are “not accurate.”

The memo spends a long time discussing an article in Yahoo News, claiming it was used by the FBI to corroborate the Steele dossier. This is important, according to the memo, because Steele was allegedly a source for the Yahoo News article and, therefore, the corroboration was circular. Schiff’s statement says “this is not at all why the article was referenced.” The statement does not elaborate, presumably because the actual use of the Yahoo News article is still classified.

Republicans, of course, are blocking the release of the Democratic memo, because they don't want the truth to come out. Josh Marshall at TPM gave his thought on the memo this Friday as well: First Take: The ‘Nunes Memo’ Is Even Weaker Than Expected:

Having given the Nunes Memo an initial but close read, here’s my take. The memo seems to tell us no more than what’s been reported in various sources for months and even on the most basic read seems obviously misleading on its face. Here’s why.

Let me try to summarize the core argument of the memo more or less on its own terms. The memo argues that the Steele Dossier was a critical or central part of the government’s (i.e., the FBI’s) argument for obtaining a FISA warrant on Carter Page. In none of its applications or follow up applications (four total) did the FBI disclose to the FISA court that the Steele Dossier was essentially the fruit of the poisoned tree – ultimately funded by Democratic party funds, an inherently political document and only corroborated in its findings to a limited degree. That’s the gist of the memo: the FBI used a tainted and unreliable source to get a warrant for surveillance on an American citizen without disclosing to the court any of the reasons not to credit the information contained in the dossier.

The key hinge in the memo is that it consistently seeks to suggest that the Dossier was the heart of the government’s case or even the entirety of the government’s case without actually providing any evidence for this claim or – critically – describing any other evidence the government may have had or may have included in the application. I see two key places in the memo where they make this case. On page 2 the memo states the dossier was “an essential part” of the government application. On the bottom of page 3, the memo says: “Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”

The latter quote is simply a characterization of what McCabe said. His actual quote would be critical to judging its significance. Even on its face, it doesn’t clearly mean there wasn’t other probative evidence. The earlier claim is simply a claim – that it was an essential part of the application. In short, the memo provides no real evidence that the Dossier was central to the application or how the government got the information. It also conspicuously refused to discuss or address what other evidence the government provided. Lots of reporting suggests there was significant additional evidence in the application. That squares with what we know about how FISA applications work and which ones get approved.

The one exception comes in the last paragraph of the memo where it says that the application also mentioned evidence about George Papadopoulos and his activities. “But,” say the memo authors, “there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos.”

Again, we don’t know the totality of evidence in the application. But if you’re providing evidence to suspect that a presidential campaign advisor is acting as the agent of a foreign power, it certainly seems relevant and probative to note evidence that one of his fellow advisors (one of five) also seems to be working with or for that foreign power, even if you don’t have evidence that the two advisors are working together. This strikes me as really obvious. Again, we can’t evaluate the application without knowing all the evidence contained in it. But the criticism here seems pretty weak.

Along the way, through the memo, there’s various trash talk about the memo or other players in the case. It claims that a September 2016 Mike Isikoff article was contained in the application as corroboration for the Dossier, even though it was based on the Dossier. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. And even the memo itself suggests that the FBI may not have known it was true at the time of the application.

At the end of the day, even a cursory read of the memo makes it sound like a cherry-picked effort to discredit the FISA warrant on Carter Page by focusing on one piece of evidence from the application while conspicuously avoiding any discussion of the other evidence. The memo also seems to rely heavily on the reader not knowing much about how warrant applications, particularly FISA warrant applications, work.

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