January 30, 2018


The Nunes Memo Kremlinology (Andrew Cohen, 1/30/18, NY Review of Books)

To believe that the memo undermines the work of the FBI, Justice Department, and Mueller is to disbelieve the mountain of independent evidence that corroborates, in whole or in part, material aspects of Steele's work. The world no longer needs to rely on Steele or his dossier to understand how deep and abiding were the ties between Team Trump and the Russians. It need only note how many of that team are already under criminal indictment or are actively cooperating with Mueller and company.

As a hearsay summary of a written report, the Republican memo would never be allowed into evidence in a trial unless the judge allowed the other side to cross-examine the memo's authors on the accuracy of the document. Under that scrutiny, by any competent lawyer, the credibility of its contents would soon be in tatters, and the ploy by House Republicans exposed for what it is. We will likely never see that cross-examination in a court of law. But we can and should see it in the coming days and weeks in the court of public opinion. 

The last headline of the day came when we learned that the White House would not impose the sanctions against Russian officials that a bipartisan Congress demanded last year. Another win for Russia; another loss for those Americans who believe that foreign states that meddle in our elections should be discouraged from doing so again (including, for example, during the mid-term elections this November). By refusing to accede to congressional directive here, by refusing to fully punish Russia for improper interference in our democratic process, the Trump White House didn't just veer from its "tough-on-crime" theme. It also showed us how emboldened it feels. 

The president evidently now sees no material risk in publicly ingratiating himself with the Kremlin even as Mueller and his investigators build their case that the Russians did the Trump team favors during the 2016 election. What the White House did on Monday, then--blowing off Congress on sanctions--is strong evidence of a quid in the quid pro quo, and it raises new questions about the extent of continuing undue Russian influence over the president and his administration. The White House tactic here is striking: rather than getting tough with the Russians to undermine Mueller's case, they have intensified their Russian romance. There is no attempt at a cover-up, no remorse or regret; instead, the ploy is to discredit the tried and true cops who are investigating a potential crime.

Posted by at January 30, 2018 2:34 PM