The Memo: Trump doubles down amid some GOP doubts

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Zucker: Trump 'secretly watching CNN' all day and night GOP candidate behind 'Deportation Bus' loses in gubernatorial bid Penn to Hewitt: Mueller probe born out of ‘hysteria’ MORE on Monday doubled down on his contention that a controversial memo released last week exposed deep political bias at the highest reaches of law enforcement — but some Republicans are dissenting. 

Trump insists the memo, written by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Schumer: GOP lawmakers tell me Nunes is ‘off the deep end’ No Dems invited to attend meeting on Russia docs MORE (R-Calif.) and alleging misdeeds at the FBI and Department of Justice, helps his case that the broader probe into Russia’s election meddling spearheaded by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE is a “witch hunt.”

Democrats scoff, but some Republicans back that position whole-heartedly.

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Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse conservatives introduce resolution calling for second special counsel The Memo: Trump flirts with constitutional crisis Young GOP lawmakers push for fresh approach MORE (R-Fla.), who is among the lawmakers who have been most supportive of Trump, told The Hill, “I think the Mueller investigation is intractably infected with bias, but I think it would be a mistake to view the memo solely in the context of the Mueller probe.”

Yet a number of Republicans — including some outside the ranks of Trump’s usual critics — have broken from the president’s line.

The memo is primarily focused on how a dossier funded by Democrats and prepared by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, was used in the FBI’s application for a surveillance warrant on Carter Page in 2016. Page had been an adviser to the Trump campaign.

“There is a Russia investigation without a dossier,” Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant No Dems invited to attend meeting on Russia docs Nunes says he won't meet with DOJ officials until they hand over documents MORE (R-S.C.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. Gowdy added that the dossier “doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice.” 

Other leading Republicans, most notably Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals Hillicon Valley: Trump claims 'no deal' to help Chinese company ZTE | Congress briefed on election cyber threats | Mueller mystery - Where's indictment for DNC hack? | Zuckerberg faces tough questions in Europe MORE (Wis.), were pumping the brakes on the most grandiose pro-Trump claims about the Nunes memo before it was even released. On Thursday, Ryan asserted at a news conference, “It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.”

Among the other Republicans who have expressed skepticism, albeit of varying intensity, are Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ MORE (Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeRepublicans think Trump is losing trade war On Trump and DOJ, both liberals and conservatives are missing the point Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Graham: Trump will 'end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland' in his first term Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting MORE (S.C.) and Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdIraq War vet wins Texas Dem runoff GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Democrats are geared up for primary runoff D-Day in Texas MORE (Texas), Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupOvernight Finance: House panel to take up bill toughening review of foreign deals | Trump acknowledges Cohen payment on disclosure form | Officials set for new round of China trade talks Ohio Republican to join House Ways and Means Committee Chaplain controversy shifts spotlight to rising GOP star MORE (Ohio) and Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team Nunes, Gowdy to get classified briefing on Mueller documents MORE (Utah).

Gaetz acknowledged his differences with party colleagues, even though he suggested there were more profound points of agreement.

“I disagree with the conclusion that Speaker Ryan and Chairman Gowdy have drawn, but I think it would be ill-advised to get lost in that,” he said.

The release of the Nunes memo has fueled speculation that Trump could move against Mueller or — in perhaps a more likely scenario — seek to oust Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinPenn to Hewitt: Mueller probe born out of ‘hysteria’ Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant GOP senator: Trump has no right to influence an investigation MORE, the deputy attorney general.

The White House has denied any such moves are afoot, a point reiterated by principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah when he spoke to reporters on board Air Force One on Monday. Shah said there had been no “consideration” given to moving key personnel at the Justice Department.

Democrats have warned that any move against Mueller or Rosenstein would precipitate a constitutional crisis.

Still, Trump’s tweets earlier in the day revealed a president deeply resentful of the way the probe has been conducted — and the degree to which it has overshadowed his time in office.

Trump tweeted that Nunes was “a man of tremendous courage and grit [who] may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed.” 

The president also took aim at Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant No Dems invited to attend meeting on Russia docs Trump officials brief Congress on election cyber threats behind closed doors MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff has pushed a Democratic memo aimed at refuting the Nunes document, and the Intelligence Committee voted Monday evening to release it. Shah said the White House would “consider” consenting to such a release if Congress pushed for it.

Another Republican congressman, Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), said on Monday that the Democratic memo should be made public.

But the president took a much more negative tack on Twitter Monday.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with [James] Comey, [Sen. Mark] Warner [D-Va.], [John] Brennan and [James] Clapper!” Trump said, referring to the former FBI director, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a former CIA chief and a former national intelligence chief, respectively. 

The president added to the incendiary tone of the political discourse in an unrelated matter on Monday. Speaking in Ohio, he accused Democrats of “treason” for not having reacted more enthusiastically to his State of the Union speech last week. 

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) shot back on Twitter that Trump “doesn’t know what ‘treason’ means.”

The president continues to enjoy the backing of the clear majority of Republicans, both inside and outside Congress. His approval rating with GOP voters is around 80 percent in most polls.

But among Republican observers who are critical of him, the latest controversy is the clearest example yet of how the party has lost its way.

“Too many Republican leaders are afraid of taking on Trump or taking on Trump supporters, and so they are not willing to call out Nunes and this entire corrupt effort,” said Peter Wehner, who served in the administrations of the three most recent Republican presidents before Trump.

“This is just part of the decline of the Republican Party under Trump,” Wehner added. “They hitched their wagon to him, so he goes down and they go down with him. They just can’t seem to find the courage to break from him.”

Trump backers like Gaetz clearly don’t believe a lack of courage has anything to do with it. 

“I think he was vindicated in the broader argument that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt. The memo demonstrates the rotten core that the Mueller investigation is built on,” Gaetz said.

Trump, as usual, is not backing down. Whether that will deepen GOP divisions or ultimately bring the party even more firmly to his side is anyone’s guess. 

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