[Orwell] On The Memos

In the days leading up to the release of the Congressional memorandum dubbed the “Nunes memo,” the political world and those engaged on its periphery were enveloped by an anxious hysteria. This anxiety is, in retrospect, understandable. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were planning, so it seemed, to launch a venomous, accusatory attack on American intelligence and law enforcement institutions. Their motives? Obvious: to delegitimize the investigation into ties between Russian election meddling and Donald Trump’s campaign, casting the effort as a partisan ploy biased against the President. While many expected the memo to be chock-full of inflammatory, cherry-picked information, the memo was, in reality, an empty blow. The memo made no relevant accusations, lacked context, evaded key facts of the investigation, contradicted itself, and ultimately, vindicated no one. The poorly-written diversion should have been disregarded upon its release. Instead, days after the release of the memo, congressional Democrats announced the imminent release of their own memo, intending to add context to and ultimately bury the Nunes memo and its accusations. By releasing a rebuttal memo, the Democrats legitimized the effort of their Republican colleagues. The release of the memo underscored the partisan lines of the investigation, exacerbating the perception that Mueller’s effort is a manifestation of partisan politics. Trump blocked the release of the Democratic memo on the grounds that it contained “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” Nevertheless, Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is pushing the memo’s release, working with the Justice Department and the FBI to “redact” the document. By pushing for the memo’s release, Schiff risks exacerbating an already virulent situation. The Mueller investigation is becoming enveloped in a storm of partisanship, risking the investigation’s legitimacy and its progress. As things stand, any verdict reached by the council will be surrounded in a shroud of doubt. Additionally, the increasing partisanship of the investigation threatens to mitigate the focus of Russia’s meddling in the election as citizens become more focused on petty politics. The memos are putting American institutions at risk.