Jan 30, 2018 - Economy

The great disorientation machine

Trump shrugs

Photo: Ron Sachs, Pool / Getty Images

The coming release of a secret House memo, hotly sought by conservatives, will intensify the great muddying of the Russia investigation in the public's mind.

Why the memo matters: Trump's allies are betting that when all is said and done — and when special counsel Bob Mueller has completed his report — the American people will be so thoroughly disgusted with everyone that the political outcome is a wash.

I have been flooded with email from conservatives who have been ignited by the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign that has flourished online, fed by Fox News.

That smoldering fire ignited yesterday after the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the memo, with the final decision up to President Trump.

  • "Committee Republicans said the memo’s release would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation," per the N.Y. Times.
  • "Democrats called the three-and-a-half-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department’s continuing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context."
  • This followed the revelation earlier in the day that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe would step down in advance of his scheduled retirement, after months of private and public pressure from the Trump administration.
  • What Trump can point to in the "failing" N.Y. Times: "Agents and lawyers expect the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general ... to be highly critical of some F.B.I. actions in 2016, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia."

Jonathan Swan and I are told that President Trump has already made up his mind to release the memo, which he sees as vindication, despite Justice Department resistance. Trump believes it will solidify in the public's mind that there's a Deep State out to get him.

  • Couple that fact with some genuinely troubling text messages between FBI agents, and the Fox News chorus warning of a Deep State coup, and you have the makings of a disorientation machine.

Last night, I saw how hot the House was burning when I interviewed Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, just after Sean Hannity had told his prime-time Fox audience that the memo would expose "the biggest political scandal in American history."

Hannity said he has been told the memo's contents "will shock the conscience," and that the bias in the early stages of the Russia investigation "makes Watergate like stealing a Snickers bar from a drugstore."

  • Hannity added: "We're talking about potential crimes. We're talking about people being charged, going to jail. ... It's a scary night."

Schiff told me his office has received obscene calls and death threats over the what he calls a "Republican spin memo," and said the right's "reckless hyperbole is just so destructive of our democracy."

  • Schiff said the right faces the danger of a letdown when the memo "doesn't live up to its billing."
  • Schiff added: "They have so hyped this ... that they've led their echo chamber into thinking that this is something extraordinary. ... It's incredibly misleading. I don't think it in any way impugns the Russia investigation, or provides any basis for firing any of the personnel involved."

Be smart: This strategy is working better than you think. Trump portrayed Hillary Clinton as an enemy of the state, and she lost. He turned the media into an enemy of the state, if you look at polls of Republicans. And, perhaps most alarming of all, he's trying to make the FBI look like an enemy of the state. 

*Note: the first bullet has been updated to say DOJ said the memo should not be released without being reviewed.

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