Republicans Release Nunes Memo Over Strong Objections From the FBI and Justice Department

President Donald Trump approved the move, seen as part of a Republican effort to discredit law enforcement officers.

Bill Clark/ZUMA

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On Friday, House Republicans released a highly controversial four-page memo alleging the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to obtain a warrant targeting a Trump campaign adviser—a decision that flagrantly disregards the FBI’s “grave concerns” that the memo paints a false picture.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, prepared the memo earlier this month, but it remained classified as House Republicans and conservative media pundits launched an aggressive social media campaign to #ReleaseTheMemo. The Justice Department warned against this “extraordinarily reckless” push, but ultimately, President Donald Trump green-lighted the decision to publicly disclose the document.

Meanwhile, Democrats who had seen the memo charged Nunes with deliberately distorting classified information to build a tenuous case that the FBI had used unlawful surveillance methods to spy on Trump associates. Nunes, they argued, was simply trying to discredit the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with people close to Trump.

CNN reported Thursday that the president admitted to associates that he viewed the memo’s release as a strategy to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller.

As the memo’s release appeared imminent, some Republicans, most notably Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of the leading Republicans behind the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, appeared to walk back their initial hyping of the memo’s bombshell nature. “To say that it’s so earth-shattering, as some of my colleagues have been saying—I believe, based on a number of things I’ve seen that there were a number of things that were done inappropriately,” Meadows said Sunday.

Nunes gained attention last year when he fanned the flames of a groundless conspiracy theory accusing the Obama administration of authorizing the illegal “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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