Battle of power: Watergate 2.0 or misdirection?
The recent potential release of a secret Republican memo alleging FBI bias against President Donald Trump and his campaign has inflamed the spirits in the US, only days after the State of the Union speech that was praised for its attempts at calling for a bipartisan collaboration and unifying rhetoric. Today, President Donald Trump attacked the integrity of the FBI and Justice Department, accusing them of politicizing the investigation in favor of the Democrats and against his fellow Republicans. “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago”, Trump said on Twitter. The memo, commissioned by Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, allegedly shows that the FBI and the Justice Department misled a U.S. court in seeking to extend electronic surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page – if proven correct, it would mean that the previous administration, through various actors, actively sought to undermine the then Republican-nominee for the Presidential election, Donald Trump, with the help of various intelligence agencies and of the Department of Justice. More simply put, the memo is expected to accuse the Department of Justice and the FBI of abusing the FISA surveillance program during the 2016 campaign, including how they used unverified material gathered by an outsourced individual – Christopher Steele, a former British Intelligence Officer – as part of their application to secure court approval for the surveillance of Carter Page. According to the New York Times, who first broke out this story, the material that was used to extend the surveillance warrant against Carter Page was financed in part through a campaign of Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, as a way to dig up dirt on Trump. Given that most of the agencies in the US are supposed to be politically independent, this act would definitely turn gasoline on an already existing fire that has been kept alive during the last year. A White House official has said that Trump was likely to give Congress approval on Friday to release the four-page document, in contrast with what the FBI has declared when they warned publicly against releasing the classified memo, citing that it would worsen the President’s frayed relations with several US agencies. On the other side of the barricade, the Democrats have claimed that the document is nothing more but an attempt to undercut Mueller’s investigation into the Russian probe. “There’s no evidence of a corrupt evidence to obtain warrants against people in the Trump Campaign”, Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Friday. “That’s been the President’s narrative, but there’s no evidence of that”. The House Speaker, Republican Paul Ryan, has played down the potential impact that the memo release would have against the current investigation that Mueller is conducting. Mr. Ryan has said that the job of the House is to “conduct oversight over the executive branch if abuses were made”; „What that is not, is an indictment on our institutions, of our justice system. This memo is not [an] indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation, or the deputy attorney general”. Another Republican member of the House, Jeff Duncan, has made several statements saying that the memo would shake the FBI „down to its core” and that it would show „Americans just how the agency was weaponized” by officials from Barrack Obama’s administration and the Democratic Party to „target political adversaries”. All in the while, the FBI has voiced „grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy”. Moreover, the Justice Department, which oversees the activity of the FBI, has warned that the memo’s release could jeopardize intelligence-gathering and ultimately tarnish the trust between the agency and the lawmakers. The FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, has already resigned on Tuesday, in the midst of the scandal, and the agency is subjected to a forthcoming inspector general report about its activities. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days – but one thing is for sure: this scandal deepens the trust that the Americans have in the intelligence agencies and the politicians themselves. This constant battle that has been going on in the last year between the Democrats and the Republicans has divided the American society like nothing else before, leaving way for a disenfranchised electorate that seem to be getting no fresh air at all – only the deadly political fumes that Washington is producing at an alarming rate. With the memo released or not, when will the US public finally get a chance to reflect on what is truly happening? UPDATE: the memo has been declassified by the United States President, Donald Trump, and has been made available to the public by Congress.