by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN)On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this:
“The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!”
That tweet was in reference to a memo written by House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, D-California, that was seen as a rebuttal of sorts to a memo written by the committee’s chairman, California Republican Devin Nunes, that alleged that the FBI had abused the domestic surveillance program during the 2016 election.
Trump okayed the release of the Nunes memo last week. Late Friday, he vetoed the release of the Democratic memo, sending it back to the Intelligence Committee for revisions.
The hypocrisy and cynicism in those twin decisions is roughly the size of Mount Everest. (Nota bene: That the memo is “long” seems entirely immaterial to whether it should be released or not.)
Trump’s own FBI and Justice Department urged the President not to release the Nunes memo.
Read the White House letter denying release of Democratic memo
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” read a statement from the FBI. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
“Grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Trump released the memo anyway.
But after promising Friday morning that the Democratic memo would be released “soon,” Trump hung his decision not to release it on concerns voiced by — wait for it — the FBI and Justice Department!!!
It’s like a parody.
In sending the memo back to the Intelligence Committee, the White House included a letter from FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited concerns that the release of the memo might have negative national security implications.
That sounds sort of like having “grave concerns about material omissions of fact,” no?
So. The recommendation of the FBI and the Justice Department was ignored a week ago but relied upon this week. What changed??? The FBI and Justice Department are the same organizations with the exact same leadership team this week as they had last week. Both memos were partisan in their origins and in their authorship.
What changed was that one memo affirmed what Trump already believed. The other offered a counter-narrative. One got released. The other didn’t.
Remember that Trump was overheard telling Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, at the State of the Union that the Nunes memo would be released — even as the White House counsel and the national security team were still reviewing it. His mind was made up to release the Nunes memo no matter what the FBI and Justice Department — or anyone else — said. Because he believed it. Because it was good for him politically.
To then hide behind the same FBI and Justice Department you ignored a week ago in order to slow — or stop — the release of a memo that tells a story Trump doesn’t believe or like is the height of hypocrisy.
It is also a step further down the road of politicizing and weaponizing intelligence information. The very fact that Nunes’ memo was written — much less released — is hugely unprecedented. To then keep a competing memo from being released by citing the very people whose recommendation you ignored a week before is, even for this administration, stunning. And appalling.
CNN · by Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large