The Trump administration released a pile of documents on Saturday that proves what most sensible observers already knew: Trump and Republicans shamelessly lied to the American people about why the FBI decided to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
These documents — the FBI’s original requests for surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page — come to us thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from multiple news outlets.
The documents were heavily redacted, but they still told us a lot — most importantly that House Republicans lied, and probably knew they were lying, with their “release the memo” debacle earlier this year.
Republicans spent weeks in January hyping a memo, allegedly based on these newly released documents, written by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Republicans claimed the memo would offer bombshell revelations, “worse than Watergate,” proving that the FBI was biased against Trump. They said it would show that the FBI’s initial request to surveil Page was the result of an anti-Trump grudge.
When the memo was actually released in early February, the promised “bombshell” was more of a fart in the wind. It proved nothing that Trump and Nunes said it would. Even worse, it appeared to be written in a deliberately misleading way so that even though it fell apart on closer inspection, it might still sound damning to anyone not paying much attention.
Most analysts were confident at the time that the memo had no merit. But there was still at least a hint of doubt, since the original documents the memo was based on hadn’t been released.
Now they have been.
Nunes’ major bogus claim in the memo was that the FBI abused its surveillance power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) when it asked to surveil Page.
Specifically, Nunes claimed that the FBI misled a FISA court judge by failing to disclose that the infamous Steele dossier (the one with the “pee tape” allegations) was commissioned as politically motivated opposition research against Trump.
But the original FISA documents, even in redacted form, “plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false,” New York Times national security and legal reporter Charlie Savage wrote.
What’s more, Savage added, “the newly disclosed documents instead corroborated rebuttals by Democrats on the panel who had seen the top-secret materials and accused Republicans of mischaracterizing them to protect the president.”
For instance, Nunes originally claimed that the FBI failed to tell the FISA court that the Steele dossier was political motivated.
Later, Nunes was forced to admit that the FBI did inform the court about the dossier’s political origins — but dismissed it by claiming that it was buried a mere “footnote.”
But as the newly released FISA documents show, “the footnote disclosing Steele’s possible bias takes up more than a full page in the applications, so there is literally no way the FISA Court could have missed it,” Lawfare’s David Kris notes.
Trump, of course, has been tweeting up a storm as if none of this happened. He’s doubling down on his fantasyland narrative that the documents actually prove him right — flying in the face of what every observer with half a brain or half a lick of independence can clearly see.
Incredibly, Trump claimed that the new documents “confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts.”
That’s not even close to true.
Trump either knows he’s lying and is frantically trying to mislead his base — or he’s so wrapped up in his own delusions, he literally can’t imagine being wrong about this.
It’s hard to say which is worse.