Breaking Nunes: Trump presidency faces another controversy

Jess Kaplan, Staff Writer

President Donald Trump’s young political career has been plagued with scandals and chaos. He started off his presidency by blatantly lying about the size of his inauguration crowd. He has shamelessly promoted the Trump brand and of course, his Twitter feed continues to cause constant outrage. If any other president had said or done these things, the scandals would be featured on the news cycle for a month. But with Trump, news rises and falls exceptionally fast as new controversies occur every day. However, the one scandal Trump cannot seem to shake is Russia.

Trump is tied to Russia in three ways. The first connection is Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which uncovered the issue of Hillary Clinton’s personal email account, and arguably ruined her chances of winning the general election. It is widely believed by U.S. intelligence officials that these hacks were aimed to promote the Trump campaign. The second connection is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s indictment for lying to the FBI about meeting with the Russian ambassador. Finally, there is the Steele Dossier, a series of documents which allege that Trump was influenced by Russian intelligence as they have a series of blackmail material on him.

The Steele Dossier became essential to a conservative counter-narrative on the Russia scandal that argues that the FBI is biased against the president. Consequently, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released the classified Nunes memo that details how the FBI abused their power in the Russia investigation to spy on Trump. The memo mainly focuses on the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page, the Trump campaign’s foreign policy adviser who had connections to Russia and expressed his admiration for their authoritarian regime. The central argument to the Nunes memo is that the FBI’s surveillance of Page was illegal and likely politically motivated. The memo also discredits the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and the Steele Dossier as both are biased against the president.

Democrats and the FBI vehemently disagree with the memo for one reason: they believe the evidence presented against the FBI is inaccurate. Speaking on behalf of Democrats, Virginia Senator Mark Warner claims the memo “demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth.” In opposition to the Nunes memo, the FBI issued a public denial of the memo while the Democrats wrote a 10-page memo of their own, that denies any FBI corruption and asserts that the Nunes memo is the White House’s way to distract from the Robert Mueller case. Yet, ultimately the Intelligence Committee unanimously voted to release the Democrats’ own memo, authored by Rep. Adam Schiff.

Although this is most likely a short-lived political crisis, there is still fear that the memo will cause long-term problems for the American justice system. For one, this is the first time a president has politicized the justice system by openly disapproving of the FBI director and, in turn, weakening his power. If false, the Nunes memo gives Democrats yet another argument against Trump and can possibly encourage people to cast votes for more Democrats, who would monitor the Trump presidency, in the midterm elections.

But if the memo is even remotely true, there is grave concern. “This is a test whether in this country we can have an independent investigation of the powerful when the powerful are not happy about it,” CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali said.

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