Nunes Memo - Explained: Kevin Xiao ’19 makes sense of the newest chaos in the Russia investigation

Opinions  /  by Kevin Xiao '19   /  February 09, 2018

As Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation continues to churn out more and more information, the question becomes: How long can this freedom of information party continue? Speaking of the Special Counsel probe, has the New York Times published another article about Donald Trump or the Congressional Republicans trying to fire Mueller yet? At this rate, if Mueller lasts long enough to publish a report on his findings, the American public will not even need to read it to come to its own conclusions. These vitriolic attacks from all parties have eroded the credibility of our American institutions.

The latest smear campaign consists of two competing narratives, both drafted by different members of the House Intelligence Committee: a memo written by Republican Chairman Devin Nunes and the Democratic response by Ranking Member Adam Schiff. While the Nunes memo does raise interesting questions about the transparency and fairness of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), these questions should be limited to Fourth Amendment issues of due process and should have absolutely no relation to Special Counsel Mueller’s independent investigation.

In an act that seriously damaged the apolitical reputation of the F.B.I., the Intel Committee published the Nunes memo on last Friday over the objections of both the F.B.I. and Trump’s own Justice Department. The Republican memo alleged that the F.B.I. failed to disclose that the Democratic Party had funded the opposition research. Ignoring the distinctly partisan origins of the salacious Steele dossier, the Justice Department withheld information from the FISC while obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump advisor Carter Page. However, it is unfair to conclude that the F.B.I. or the Obama-era Justice Department were “out to get” Trump from these pedantic errors alone. The actions of the Justice Department before the establishment of the Special Counsel’s office and one partial F.B.I. agent are not representative of the whole Mueller team, just as Trump’s political positions or conduct do not reflect the beliefs of the entire Republican Party.

Through another vote by the Intelligence Committee, the Democratic memo may be released if President Trump does not block it on national security grounds. But this competing memo only confuses the situation. As our Congressional leaders are continuously introducing their own politically-motivated takes on an extremely complicated investigation under Special Counsel Mueller’s purview, the American people are growing more and more conflicted over which side they should believe. In the end, everyone clings to their own partisan agendas, the truth is lost entirely, and no one wins—except Russia, which watches smugly as we all fight each other to death with our competing narratives and divisive politics.

In the interest of the survival of our nation, we all must come together and support our longstanding institutions when they come under attack. While this Russia investigation will go away, one way or another, the F.B.I. and Justice Department are hallmarks of American law enforcement and the judicial process. As Representative Trey Gowdy noted, there will still be a Russia investigation without the Steele dossier. In light of all this, our best course of action is not to constantly attack or defend the Mueller probe, but allow Mueller to continue his bona-fide quest for the truth. While none of this is to say that we should not hold our government accountable for its actions, the back-and-forth attacks of partisan groups have done nothing but further divide the country on an issue that has already distracted our leaders from the real problems confronting the nation, such as immigration reform, cutting down government waste, or finding a long-term fix for the debt ceiling.