Presidential impeachment is a serious matter. It’s the penultimate sanction legislators may take against the nation’s chief executive. After that comes removal from office. The way the current case is being handled cheapens the constitutional safeguards protecting our liberties.
Lest we forget, it has its antecedents in the now-discredited charge the Trump 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russian operatives on activities intended to alter the outcome of an election. No one has as yet proven those activities — largely the abuse of social media platforms to spread false memes favorable to Donald Trump or discrediting of Hillary Clinton to wide swaths of the electorate — changed a single vote. Yet the fact they occurred did provide enough of a camel’s nose inside the tent to spawn several official U.S. government investigations both before and after the election.
The report into the FBI’s role in all this just issued by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was misrepresented by many of our media colleagues as revealing nothing especially alarming. Actually, it confirmed what Rep. Devin Nunes, formerly the chairman and now the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, charged in his now infamous memo concerning abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in relation to the investigation of the Trump campaign.
The Nunes memo refuted the narrative being spun by his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Adam Schiff who, in a memo of his own, made charges and statements we now know to have been entirely false. Two years ago, however, the Schiff line was celebrated by Democrats, the mainstream media and Never Trumpers as a refutation of everything Mr. Nunes had alleged. Now we know he was right. As the Horowitz report explains, for example, the FBI did use the infamous Clinton campaign-funded, bogus “Steele dossier” as the essential justification of its surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Rosemary Collyer, currently the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, said in what has been described as an “unusual public order” Tuesday that Mr. Horowitz’s report “calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable” and that the FBI’s handling of the Page case “was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor” required by FISA.
Looking back, what’s remarkable about this episode is how Mr. Nunes was roundly mocked and ridiculed for telling the truth while Mr. Schiff was praised and celebrated while lying during a period in which the Republicans constituted a majority in the House of Representatives. Indeed, Mr. Nunes might have been on the case even earlier had he not been sidelined by a frivolous ethics investigation for raising concerns about improper surveillance of the Trump campaign by the U.S. government, also on the GOP’s watch.
House Speaker Paul Ryan did approve the release of Mr. Nunes’ memo, but only under enormous pressure from Trump supporters who made #ReleaseTheMemo a social movement. He then immediately walked away from it, striking an apologetic tone under questioning saying: “What this is not is an indictment of our institutions, of our Justice System. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation” before changing the subject.
Why did Mr. Ryan choose to downplay Mr. Nunes’ findings rather than trumpet them? With access to all of the same materials Mr. Nunes could see, how could Mr. Ryan remain unconvinced the allegation the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was premised on a lie. Why he didn’t more forcefully back his chairman is not clear, then or now. One could almost argue the now-former speaker left a member of his team twisting in the wind, hung out to dry rather than buck the Never Trumpers within his own party.
We can’t imagine a Democrat doing that, even if the committee chairman in question had been caught in a lie. Exhibit A for this proposition is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s failure to upbraid or even acknowledge the numerous proven lies and other falsehoods Adam Schiff has promulgated throughout the process. That Mrs. Pelosi has remained silent is further confirmation that the whole impeachment business has been, as the president has charged, a political exercise intended to subvert the results of the last election rather than a high-minded defense of the U.S. Constitution.
The people may be catching on. President Trump leads every Democrat seeking to take his place, according to the latest USA Today/Suffolk poll, while impeachment has the approval of fewer and fewer voters likely to cast ballots in next year’s election. Mr. Trump can achieve vindication not just through acquittal in the Senate trial but through re-election in 2020. Not so Devin Nunes who, we submit, is owed an apology by former Speaker Ryan and other members of his party’s leadership for not having his back when he needed it most.
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