Watergate reporter: Nunes memo is a 'red herring'

Former Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein slammed President TrumpDonald John TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report MORE and Republicans after the release of a previously classified memo alleging abuse of government surveillance powers by the Justice Department, calling the memo a “disingenuous partisan document” and a “red herring.”

“What we are seeing here is a demagogic, authoritarian president who is using this red herring to contend that there is a ‘witch hunt’ going on when, in fact, there is a legitimate investigation into what the Russians did, and whether or not the president of the United States and his cohort and aides and family may or may not have been involved in helping the Russians,” Bernstein said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

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Bernstein said if there’s evidence to exonerate Trump in the investigation into Russia's election interference, the president  “ought to have enough faith in our institutions” to allow them to continue their investigation.

The famed Watergate journalist also ripped Republicans for "[going] along with" Trump in attacking institutions like the FBI and Justice Department.

“If they cannot see how Donald Trump has been manipulated and how Donald Trump is using this to avoid legitimate investigation and to poison the institutions of American democracy, then the Republican Party is taking us somewhere where we haven’t been before,” Bernstein said. “And they were the heroes of Watergate because they were open to the truth.”

He went on to blast the Republican party for behaving as if Trump is "above the law.”

“We are at a crossroads in this country,” Bernstein said. “Watergate established in United States vs. Nixon that no one in this country is above the law, including the president of the United States. Right now, we have the unprecedented situation of one of the major political parties essentially asserting and backing the president in showing and believing that he is above the law.”

The previously classified memo released Friday by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee accuses senior Justice Department officials of improperly using information from the so-called Steele dossier, which was partially funded by Democrats, to obtain surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a member of the Trump transition team and former Trump adviser.

Trump announced Friday he approved the release of the memo, despite objections from top officials at the FBI and Justice Department. He called its revelations disgraceful.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee blasted Republicans’ decision to release the memo, saying the document mischaracterizes sensitive information and fails to provide important context.

The committee’s minority authored its own document rebutting the Republican memo, but Republican members of the Intel panel voted against its release earlier this week. Leadership has indicated the countermemo may be released once it is properly vetted.