What if the great smoking gun in the Trump-Russia enquiry is not Donald Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin? What if the real conspiracy turns out to be a Democrat conspiracy to invent a Trump-Russia conspiracy? What if the baddies of 2016 turn out to be not Trump and Vladimir Putin — but Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?
These are questions that right-wing headbangers have been asking for months — but everyone tends to think they are crazy so ignores them. In recent days, however, the theory of a dark Democrat plot to discredit and undermine Donald Trump has taken on a life of its own. This is thanks to wild reports about a classified four-page memo, which allegedly shows that the whole Mueller investigation is a politically motivated sham. Big news, if not fake.
What we do know is that on January 18, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted to allow select members of the House of Representatives to view a ‘memo’. The theory — and it is just a theory — is that the document, compiled by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, provides evidence that the Obama administration maliciously used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was intended to protect Americans from terrorism, to spy on the Trump campaign. This leads on to a bigger theory that the intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, the Democratic party, even perhaps the Russians colluded to undermine the Trump presidency and plant the idea that he was in league with the Kremlin.
Republican Congressman Dave Joyce has said that the memo ‘was deeply disturbing as anyone who’s been in law enforcement and any American will find out once they have the opportunity to review it,’ ‘Part of me wishes that I didn’t read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.’
Of course Republican politicians aren’t exactly neutral here. Is the document really intelligence or is it, as Democrats allege, a collection of Republican ‘talking points’ to exonerate Trump? Nunes was forced to step aside from the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee for being pro-Trump, they point out.
With only shreds of evidence to support anything being said about the whole Mueller enquiry, nobody knows. What we can say is that America seems in the middle of a game of very high-stakes conspiracy poker between left and right. The Fox News line could be that, well, the left-liberal media has been peddling the Russia collusion scandal ever since Trump was elected, despite a lack of compelling evidence — so we can do the same. You’ve corrupted democracy! No you’ve corrupted democracy! And so on and so on.
Naturally, the Democrats are upping the ante: the conspiracy theory about the conspiracy to create a conspiracy is itself a conspiracy. It’s Russian robots again, trying to pervert democracy like they always do. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff wrote a letter to the heads of Twitter and Facebook urging them to shut down any Russian bots that might be trying to spread a ‘releasethememo’ hashtag.
Nobody knows for sure. Still, you don’t have to be a Russian-built algorithm to think that the sudden excitement emanating from the document’s part-disclosure suggests it contains some dramatic facts, or to want to know what it says. If, as Republicans are suggesting, it shows a major transgression of US justice, then surely Americans have a right to see it.
Why then can’t Donald Trump just use his power as Commander-in-Chief to declassify the document and therefore exonerate himself?
Well, maybe he doesn’t want to. Vanity Fair yesterday floated the idea that Nunes and Trump would perhaps rather the memo wasn’t released because it is so thin. Other sources, meanwhile, suggest that intelligence agencies are desperate to stop the memo getting out because Nunes got hold of classified information that could risk the lives of agents.
Confused? You should be, and what you think will probably depend on where your political biases lie.