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The Memo: Nunes ‘bombshell’ fails to move debate

The Memo: Nunes ‘bombshell’ fails to move debate
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The GOP memo alleging FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) misdeeds, emanating from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesFive key takeaways from the Russian indictments Shepard Smith: New Mueller indictments prove Russia probe is 'opposite of a hoax' Schiff: 'We're very close to reaching an agreement' with FBI on countermemo MORE (R-Calif.), has not proved to be the game-changer that some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE’s most ardent supporters had hoped for.

Even before the memo was released last Friday, media reports suggested that even some figures within the White House considered the document underwhelming. That judgment seems to have been borne out, as the memo has begun to fade from the headlines with the political landscape not fundamentally altered.

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“I don’t think it is the bombshell it was billed as being,” said Joyce White Vance, a former United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Other experts in the field argue that the memo has actually helped the FBI and DOJ. 

For example, it stated that the initial impetus for opening a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia was not the disputed dossier prepared by a former British spy, Christopher Steele.

Steele was employed by Fusion GPS, which was in turn being paid in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE’s campaign. But the probe had been opened because of separate suggestions of Russian meddling emanating from former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosGates agrees to testify against Manafort in Mueller probe: report Mueller indictments still miss the mark on Trump-Russia collusion Five key takeaways from the Russian indictments MORE, according to the Nunes memo, though Steele approached the FBI around the same time.

The memo “helps the FBI and the DOJ rather than advance the conspiracy theory that is being advanced by Nunes,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a former assistant attorney general who served in senior law enforcement positions under Republican and Democratic presidents.

Gurulé also argued that the broader narrative being advanced by the president and his loyalists — in essence, that there was a plot in intelligence circles to bring him down — was “irrational, illogical and laughable.”

Trump is not backing away from his charges, however. Shortly after the memo first became public he wrote on Twitter: “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on….This is an American disgrace!”

At Wednesday’s media briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The president feels vindicated because he feels like the Russia investigation has been a politically motivated witch hunt for the last year, and the memo clearly vindicates the president’s position that there was political bias.”

Several Republicans have dissented from that assessment, including Reps. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand GOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban MORE (S.C.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdProgressive group targets GOP moderates on immigration Obama failed on Russia; Trump must get it right House Dems rebuff Trump’s four-tier DACA approach MORE (Texas), who are not among Trump’s most frequent GOP critics. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) had also stated even before the Nunes memo was released that it did not “impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general [Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Sessions creates cyber task force to study election interference Dopey Russian ads didn't swing voters — federal coverups did MORE].”

That leaves the president still facing into the crosshairs of a possible interview with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s team. 

Trump has previously said he is willing to be interviewed by Mueller. As recently as late January, he told reporters at the White House, “I’m looking forward to it, actually.” But The New York Times reported earlier this week that his legal team had advised him against agreeing to such an encounter.

At Tuesday’s media briefing, Sanders refused to be drawn on whether Trump would ultimately agree to provide testimony to Mueller.

Trump critics argue that his hesitancy will only further fuel suspicions.

“I think there are a lot of independent voters who are a little exhausted in some ways by this whole thing,” said Republican consultant and Trump critic Rick Wilson. “They don’t love this being the centerpiece every single day. 

“But I don’t think Donald Trump gets a whole lot of benefit of the doubt about whether he’s obstructing justice because the more he talks, the more it seems odd. ‘Why are you so angry? Why did you want to get rid of Bob Mueller?’ ”

Nunes has promised further revelations probing the behavior of other arms of government, including the State Department. And some loyalists for the president continue to insist that the Mueller probe is “intractably infected with bias,” as Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzBipartisan bill offered in House to protect marijuana users in legal weed states House Republican says Trump calls him regularly ‘because I defend him on television’ The Memo: Nunes ‘bombshell’ fails to move debate MORE (R-Fla.) told The Hill earlier this week. 

The one significant poll taken since the memo’s release made uncomfortable reading for Trump supporters.

The Quinnipiac University poll, released on Tuesday, found that 53 percent of voters believe that Trump has attempted to “derail or obstruct” the Russia probe, as just 41 percent say he had not. The margin among independent voters was even wider, at 56 percent to 37 percent. 

“The ‘earth-shattering’ memo has failed to shatter the earth,” Wilson said.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.