UPDATE #3: According to a report from the Washington Post, President Trump decided that the memo should be released before he even read the document. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also reportedly told Trump that the memo was “not as compelling as some of its advocates had promised.”
UPDATE #2: Former FBI Director James Comey seems perplexed by the content of the memo (the Washington Post has a good annotated version of the full memo, BTW):
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
UPDATE: Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado weighs in:
It is the sacred duty of elected officials to put the interests of our country ahead of their own political fate. Anyone who does not see that this is a concerted effort to distort the record, and ultimately undermine the incontrovertible reputation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the credibility of his investigation, is failing to uphold that duty.
Having had the privilege to work with the FBI earlier in my career, I find it particularly disgraceful that the President would disregard the judgement of the men and women at the FBI and the Justice Department. By releasing the memo, he is undermining the investigation into a foreign adversary’s interference in our democratic process and continuing to assault the integrity of the U.S. intelligence community. The President is showing, once again, that he cares more about himself than the country.
Politico reporting on the day’s show-stopping national political story:
Republicans on Capitol Hill, backed by President Donald Trump, defied pleas from the FBI and Democrats Friday and released a classified memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The memo’s emergence marks a dramatic new stage in the GOP’s effort to delegitimize the federal probe into whether the Kremlin infiltrated and even influenced Trump’s campaign. It comes after weeks of build-up and partisan anger, as Democrats warned Republicans not to play politics with classified intelligence.
In a briefing, House intelligence committee staff said the memo reveals that the Steele Dossier was a factor in the initial Oct. 21, 2016, warrant to spy on Carter Page and was included in several 90-day renewals as well. Three of the applications were signed off on by Comey and one by his longtime deputy, Andrew McCabe.
The FBI led by Trump-appointed Director Christopher Wray did everything they could within their professional constraints to explain that the Republican memo’s conclusions were not to be trusted:
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” [Pols emphasis]
After Republicans authorized the release of their memo while blocking the release of a response prepared by the Democratic minority on the House Intelligence Committee, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rained fire on Trump and committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes:
President Trump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing highly classified and distorted intelligence. By not protecting intelligence sources and methods, he just sent his friend Putin a bouquet…
Nunes’ partisan spin memo distorts highly classified intelligence in a cynical attempt to discredit our national intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the Special Counsel investigation. Releasing the memo is a desperate attempt to distract the American people from the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal.
One year ago, the intelligence community concluded that the Russians interfered in our elections and plan to do so again. Yet, the President refuses to hold Putin accountable, making us all ask: what do the Russians have on Trump, politically, financially and personally?
Far from materially refuting the larger case that the Trump campaign colluded and benefitted from Russian intelligence operations during his narrowly successful 2016 election campaign, the Republican memo appears to focus on the propriety of the so-called “pee-pee tape” dossier in an attempt to undermine the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump both during and after the presidential election.
Politically, there’s nothing we can see from initial reports to indicate anyone not already ensconced in the Trump media bubble will be persuaded by the content of this report. But even if it did contain some kind of smoking gun, the controversial manner and timing of its release confines any help it provides to the same percentage of Republican party faithful.
For the over 60% of Americans who don’t approve of this presidency, it’s just more proof of the GOP’s complicity.