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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 NunesJuan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy Senate Dem: Trump's 'fake, hyperbolic rantings' an insult to real Medal of Honor recipients MORE (R-Calif.), has not proved to be the game-changer that some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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 ClintonBudowsky: Closing message for Democrats Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP mocks Clinton after minor vehicle collision outside Mendendez campaign event 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 PapadopoulosCalif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison The Mueller investigation: Where it stands at the midterms Mr. President, tear down the wall hiding those FISA abuses 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 GowdyHouse GOP sets deposition deadline for Fusion GPS co-founder Collusion bombshell: DNC lawyers met with FBI on Russia allegations before surveillance warrant Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans MORE (S.C.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters for midterms Election Countdown: Florida candidates face new test from hurricane | GOP optimistic about expanding Senate majority | Top-tier Dems start heading to Iowa | Bloomberg rejoins Dems | Trump heads to Pennsylvania rally MORE (Texas), who are not among Trump’s most frequent GOP critics. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP GOP group makes late play in Iowa seat once seen as lost Adelsons donated M in September to help GOP in midterms 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 RosensteinFBI investigated media leak of McCabe comment about Flynn and Trump House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein Sessions unveils task force to combat transnational criminal groups like MS-13 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) GaetzHouse panels postpone meeting with Rosenstein Florida Dems attack GOP campaign as ‘racist’ after Republican labels Gillum 'Kill'em' on crime Top Trump ally in Congress says Rosenstein should be impeached even if he was joking about wearing a wire 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.