If you spend any time on conservative websites, happen to catch a minute of Fox News or have Republican friends on social media, you’ve probably heard someone demanding that the House “release the memo.” Now, that may finally happen.
But what exactly is “the memo,” who’s “releasing” it and how will it affect the political landscape? Here’s everything you need to know about the already infamous memo.
1. “The Memo” Is a GOP-Authored Document
Despite most of the hype surrounding this document, the memo wasn’t written by the FBI. The memo was written by Republicans who claim to have chronicled a series of abuses in the FBI, such as misuse of surveillance techniques, that were allegedly committed to hurt President Donald Trump and his administration.
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The memo itself has been classified, so the four-page document couldn’t be made public. Now, thanks to efforts spearheaded by House Intelligence Committee Chair and Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, the memo will be released beyond the committee — and everyone will be able to read its contents.
2. But What Is It About?
The memo focuses on the Russian probe, of course. As CNN reports:
The Nunes memo says the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over its use of the opposition research dossier on Donald Trump and Russia as part of the case to obtain a FISA warrant for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. It cites the roles of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and outgoing Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe in overseeing aspects of the investigation, according to a source briefed on the matter.
The memo claims that the FBI maintains an anti-Trump bias, prompting agency leaders to approve otherwise unacceptable surveillance in an effort to bring the president down.
3. Why Is This Partisan?
The memo is just a summary — it’s the Nunes version of what he believes happened inside the FBI, providing only the information he wants to highlight and disregarding the rest. Meanwhile, a second “memo” — this one written Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, allegedly examines the source materials offered by the FBI. Schiff claims Nunes didn’t bother to read those sources, only cherry-picking Republican talking points:
The chairman never bothered to go read these underlying materials. After months and months of making this argument that the FBI and DOJ are involved in some sort of conspiracy, he didn’t even bother to read the materials himself.
While the committee voted to declassify the Nunes memo, they voted to keep Schiff’s response classified so no one can see it.
4. Why Is This a Big Deal?
The memo really isn’t that big of a deal — after all, pretty much everything in it has probably already appeared on a right-wing website by now, and it’s assumed to contain mostly retreaded GOP fever dreams. That said, the debate surrounding the memo highlights just how partisan Congress has become.
The GOP has pushed to get “the memo” into the public eye, regardless of how many times they’ve been told that doing so could jeopardize the Russian investigation, potentially endanger agents and even undermine the trust in the FBI itself — a bureau that needs to be both non-partisan and independent from any political administration. Huffington Post reports:
In a letter last week, a top Justice Department official said releasing the classified memo would be an “unprecedented action” that would be “extraordinarily reckless” and could “risk harm to national security and to ongoing investigations.” The department did not “understand why the Committee would possibly seek to disclose classified and law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with the relevant members of the Intelligence Community,” the letter read.
5. If Republicans Are Concerned About National Security, Why Would They Do This?
Two reasons: they want to clean out the FBI and replace existing officials with Trump administration yes-men, as well as to discredit any findings that suggest the Russians played a role in the 2016 presidential election. And that claim is gaining even more traction now that the president just announced he will not impose the Russian sanctions Congress passed last year to punish the country for meddling in the election.
6. Well When Do We Get to See “the Memo”?
Now that the committee has voted to release it, the memo will move to the White House. The president has five days to decide whether he agrees with declassifying and releasing the document, and if so, the public will finally get a peek at the most highly sought after three-and-a-half pages of information in recent years.