Of Applauses and Military Parades

On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address in front of both houses of Congress. Of course, like the last time he addressed Congress, the media lauded at how he seemed to act presidential by reciting words off a teleprompter which you wouldn’t see in his Twitter feed. But that doesn’t change the fact he’s the hollow showman who’d rather pick fights than offer any remotely plausible solutions to any real problems. And that he shows absolutely no interest in governing or uniting the country. Nor does it change the fact he’s a narcissistic sociopath who’d sell out America and undermine established democratic norms in order to enrich himself, his Republican allies, and his 1% friends. Or how he has no respect for America, democratic principles, or the rule of law.

But what scares me most about Donald Trump is his authoritarian impulses. He sees himself above scrutiny and criticism. He sees himself entitled to countless praises from everyone without doing anything to deserve them. And as president, he thinks that anyone working in the federal government should be personally loyal to him above all else. In his mind, anyone who thinks less of him as this wonderful president who’d make America great again is an Un-American conspirator out to get him who should be crushed. Trump has called reporters who write unflattering articles about him as, “enemies of the people” and the media outlets they work for as “fake news.” He has called athletes who kneel during the national anthem to peacefully protest police brutality and racism as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the American flag. He has questioned the authority of federal judges who ruled against his policies. He has declared war on law enforcement officials and agencies investigating him whom he’s alleged as agents in some Democratic deep state conspiracy to bring him down. Despite that the key decisionmakers in the Russian inquiry are all Republicans, including his own hand-picked deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

On Monday, February 5, Donald Trump addressed a crowd in Cincinnati in which he decried how congressional Democrats didn’t stand and applaud for him during last week’s State of the Union. “They were like death and un-American,” he said. “Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.” Trump loyalist may dismiss this incendiary sentiment as nothing but a joke. After all, he didn’t say refusing to give him a standing ovation was treasonous. He just merely agreed with people who said it was. And like many things Trump says in his tweets, there’s a tendency to shrug it off.

But Donald Trump’s casual allegation of calling the Democrats’ behavior “treasonous” should be taken very seriously. Merriam Webster defines treason as “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.” In Article III Constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” Of course, treason can be punished by life in prison or death. Joining an enemy army because you didn’t get the promotion you deserved is treason. Splitting off from your country so you can subjugate black people to forced labor is treason. Giving out secrets to the Russians after World War II is treason. Refusing to stand or applaud the State of the Union when a president thinks you should is neither treasonous nor Un-American. If it was, then you can easily say that congressional Republicans were treasonous whenever they sat on their hands while Barack Obama touted his accomplishments in office to the Democrats’ cheers. Same when it came to every president before him.

Nevertheless, when Donald Trump links a refusal for a standing ovation to a president during a State of the Union address as “treasonous,” he’s implying a far more unsettling message. What Trump really meant in Cincinnati is that dissent was traitorous and/or un-American. That if these non-clappers really loved their country, they’d be applauding when he touted how low black unemployment had dipped under his presidency. Despite that his touting of historically low black unemployment was a cherry-picked fact based off a single month’s economic report which totally lost relevance when the black unemployment numbers trickled up in January. Besides, even if he did reduce black unemployment to historic lows, that wouldn’t make any difference to the Democrats. Because Trump has pissed plenty of Democrats off through his divisive and incendiary rhetoric. Not to mention, his pandering to white supremacists as well as his assaults on healthcare, education, the environment, civil rights, workers, and the poor. Then there’s his disregard for democratic norms and the rule of law as well as his attacks on American institutions like law enforcement and the press.

Still, even the mere suggestion of criminalizing dissent should trouble any fan of democracy. The right to dissent without fear of retribution is at the heart of what differentiates the United States from authoritarian countries around the world. In fact, it’s even protected by the First Amendment of our constitution. As US Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted, “We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath—in the military and in the Senate—to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” When a president floats the notion of no applause when it was appropriate, it sends a very powerful message to the nation about how we do (and should) deal with those disagreeing with us. Doesn’t matter if Donald Trump was joking or not. And whether you agree with President Pussygrabber or not, it sends a very terrible message. What the Democrats did during Trump’s State of the Union wasn’t unprecedented and was well within their rights. To say otherwise, is un-American and destructive.

Then there’s a recent report from the Washington Post, in which an anonymous military official claimed that Donald Trump requested that the Pentagon begin planning a military parade this year along the inaugural route between the US Capitol to the White House. According to the paper, Trump was inspired by a 2017 to France for Bastille Day which traditionally features one. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” the official said. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.” Excuse me, but doesn’t there seem to be something a bit despotic about this? Because save for winning wars, holding military parades is what armed forces in dictatorships to show they’re not to be messed with like in Russia, China, and North Korea. Still, this isn’t a new interest of Trump’s since he wanted military equipment and a flyover for his 2017 inaugural parade. Of course, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the event in the works, “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” Oh, what a load of shit. Trump is a man who dodged the draft thanks to his rich daddy, called POWs cowards, had disabled veterans chased off of Trump Tower, promised to donate $6 million to vets but didn’t, set up a fake veterans hotline, attacked a Gold Star family for being Muslim, and told a grieving serviceman’s widow that her husband, “knew what he signed up for.” They say that Trump wants a military parade to show honor America’s service members is ludicrous. He doesn’t give a shit about the brave men and women who’ve served this country other than as props in his displays of patriotic pageantry. But Trump is a president who’s openly praised a number of totalitarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s openly questioned his own Justice Department and FBI, suggesting there was a conspiracy at the highest levels wanting to weaken him. He’s worked tirelessly to disqualify the idea of an objective news media. He constantly says things that aren’t true and has an administration coining the term, “alternative facts.” Not to mention, he has a tremendous ego and perhaps to top the kind of military parade he saw in France. Because to him, might makes right and he with the biggest toys wins.

However, when the toys are tanks and missiles, no one’s really sure what “winning” looks like as the stakes go up. Donald Trump is either unaware or dismisses this concept. He also doesn’t seem to care about the kind of message a parade of tanks, guns, and other military playthings through the Washington D.C. streets sends to the rest of the world which will watch. Meaning we’ll probably get a military parade in Washington because Tiny Hands gets what he wants whether or not it’s good for the country. Our soldiers and weapons aren’t toys for Trump to parade around to compensate his fragile ego. Still, if there’s anything un-American it’s an unpopular president holding a military parade because other countries get to do it.

Nonetheless, if there’s anyone who’s betraying the nation, consider the guy who’d deliberately and systematically wreck the institutions guaranteeing the separation of powers and accountability of the Executive and Legislative branches. Think of the guy who’d subvert the rule of law to protect himself, his family, and his cronies from justice. If you’re looking for a man who’d betray the Founders’ glorious vision and our Constitution, look no further than the clown who heads this White House circus. I mean the very man who swore to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws of the land, but ignores them and attacks those who’d carry them out. Sure, there have been presidents who’ve failed, strayed, and fell to weakness. And we can remember presidents from both parties who no one could even imagine betraying the nation to a hostile foreign power. Not this man. And we don’t have to imagine it either. We can see it. Trump’s unashamed schmoozing with Vladimir Putin speaks for itself as he allows Russia attack our democracy, our Republic, and our institutions. Only Trump and his sycophants question Putin’s implacable hostility, aggression, and desire to divide and disrupt this country. That Putin wants to weaken our standing, diminish our power, and harm our interest in the world is stated Russian policy. When Congress sent Trump veto-proof legislation demanding he impose sanctions on Russia, he waited until the last second to impose, well, nothing. When Putin arrested campaign opponent Alexey Navalny on fake charges, His Hind-Ass remained silent. For some reason, Trump is determined to show he’d do anything, at any time, to please this Russian authoritarian. He’ll even tear down the United States government around him to hide from accountability, wreak alliances, compromise intelligence sources, and endanger our troops to please Putin. Let us strip away all the excuses and rationalizations and just call Trump’s actions on Russia, what they are: treason.

 

The Hidden World of Mardi Gras Masks

Mardi-Gras-Decorations-001

Another big February holiday that’s coming up is Mardi Gras as Carnival season will soon be in full swing back in Europe. And one of the features in Carnival are these fancy masks. They may give you an impression of what you see in a masquerade ball with dazzling costumes as you might’ve seen in my post on the Venetian Carnival. This year, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day, it’s fair to say that Mardi Gras will fall on the day before. So I might as well get it out of the way if I can. Still, the masks can be as elaborate as the costumes themselves as you can see above. Some have gold. Some have feathers. Some have lovely embroidery. And some even have jewels. But each mask can be beautiful in its own way. So for your reading pleasure, I give you an assortment of unique Mardi Gras masks.

  1. A bejeweled mask always sparkles.

This is a silver and jeweled Mardi Gras mask meant for a wedding. And yes, it probably costs more than some wedding dresses.

2. A jester mask is perfect for a festive occasion.

This one has golden jingles and thread. But the hat is in purple silk.

3. You can always shine in a mask with pearls.

Well, this one mostly has embroidery. But it’s the pearls that really make it shine.

4. A golden mask has a certain kind of elegance.

This one is a metal mask. Looks incredibly delicate. Not sure if I’d want to wear it on my face.

5. Couples’ masks should always be color coordinated.

The golden one with horses is the man’s. The golden one with jewels and embroidery is the woman’s. And I suppose the costumes match as well.

6. A blue mask should come with beats and feathers.

This one has beaded blue flowers, black embroidery, and blue feathers. And you can hold it over your face with a stick.

7. A black jester mask has a certain mystique to it.

Also has some gold on the eyes as well as black fabric with jingles. I guess this one doesn’t come cheap.

8. Sometimes a simple white mask will do.

Has a silk flower and silver trim. Seems as if you can make this one yourself from stuff at a craft store.

9. You can always make a mask sparkle with glitter.

This one has purple and silver glitter all over it. Still, got to love the shape and design.

10. An ornate golden mask should come with a few jewels on it.

This one has an intricate golden design that almost seems antique. Still, love the pearls and jewels on it. Lovely.

11. Perhaps a black mask may suit your fancy.

This one has feathers and jewels with gold embroidery on the edges. And all on black silk.

12. If you don’t like feathers, how about a mask with a butterfly wing?

The butterfly wing is silver with stones encrusted. Still, seems quite delicate to wear.

13. A jester mask can always use a few jingles.

This one is in classic Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green, white, and purple. But it seems more Venetian Carnival than New Orleans.

14. A Mardi Gras masks can come with a special touch.

This one is also in classic Mardi Gras colors. But it has purple flower decoration in silk.

15. Perhaps a mask with a diamond pattern could suit your fancy.

This golden mask has a diamond pattern in black, red, white, and gold. And it has a flower design on the top.

16. A white mask can always use some lace.

This one also contains feathers and beaded flowers. Perfect for a masquerade party.

17. A mask like this comes in all rainbow colors.

And they’re all stacked against each other as if they go together. They also have matching ribbons.

18. A purple mask can always use some fancy feathers.

This one has golden glitter. But the flamboyant purple feathers really make this mask stand out.

19. Speaking of feathers, how about ones in purple and green?

Also has a jewel in the front. Are the feathers fake? Looks like it. But hey, it’s for the festive occasion.

20. Black feathers always give a mask a certain mystique.

This one also has black glitter around the eyes. And it contains a jewel on the top for added elegance.

21. A fancy purple mask should come with a fancy stick.

Bet you can find this one at a masquerade ball. Love the jewel and feathers.

22. A pink mask should come with all the trimmings.

This one comes with a flower, feathers, ribbons, and fringe. And you can hold it with a stick.

23. A jester mask can sometimes intimidate.

This is a joker Venetian mask. And it seems to match the gold diamond one I previously showed. Still, quite exquisite to look at.

24. A green mask can show exquisite taste.

This one seems to be covered in velvet with feathers and ribbons. But it’s nonetheless festive.

25. A joker’s hat can consist of purple triangle strips.

Seems easy enough. Though I think this mask is specially made. Also, the ruff is purple as well.

26. Anyone would die for a mask of encrusted stones.

Though I suspect those aren’t real diamonds. Else it would be very expensive. Still, seems quite delicate.

27. A simple mask can always have some festive decorations.

Yet, from the mask I see here, this one seems like a DIY. Still, love the feathers.

28. A feathered mask should always include one from a peacock.

Well, peacock feathers are always associated with Mardi Gras. But this one is quite festive.

29. For added mystery, you might want a mask of black lace.

Comes with a black feather and red roses. Great for a black lace dress.

30. For more elegance, try a few peacock feathers.

This green one also has purple feathers and ribbons. Nonetheless, it’s quite fancy.

31. Perhaps you might want a small gold hat with your pink mask.

Well, it’s a very tiny hat with a pink feather and flowers. Still, got to love the design.

32. A beaded mask can always stand out at a ball.

Well, this one is encrusted with jewels of all kinds of colors. But you have to admire the detail.

33. With this mask, you can see a golden swan.

Because part of the mask has a swan decoration on it. Seems as graceful as it appears delicate.

34. Couples’ masks should always match.

These are both black and gold. And I guess they go with costumes with similar colors and styles.

35. To stand out, try a mask with long horns.

Yes, this seems quite intimidating and one you can poke someone’s eye out. Still, looks pretty awesome.

36. How about a golden mask trimmed with black?

There are black sequins on the eye slits and borders. But it has a beaded and feathered decoration.

37. Perhaps you might want to wear a black velvet mask with lace.

Well, it has lace along the edges. But it has an ornate strap on the back as well.

38. A black velvet mask could use a few feathers.

This one has golden trim to match. Yet, it’s the feathers that grab my attention.

39. A blue and white mask should include the moon.

Well, it’s blue on one side and white on the other. Yet, the moon on this one is a blue crescent.

40. This blue beak mask comes with some ornate pearls.

Looks quite fancy with silver brocade. Nevertheless, love the pearls on silver chains.

41. A blue and white mask can come with a quality decoration.

This one has blue feathers and a flower. And it’s covered in blue glitter.

42. An ornate black mask can have as many decorations as you want it to.

This one has all kinds of stuff on it like feathers and beads. Not sure how to put this one on.

43. You can shine at carnival with even a partial mask.

This one has a feather decoration with a jewel. Not to mention, some decor on the mask itself.

44. Perhaps you might want to wear a gold and blue mask.

This one is gold with a blue swan in glitter. Includes feathers and a flower.

45. Sparkle at the masquerade ball with this jewel encrusted mask.

This one certainly doesn’t look at all cheap. Wouldn’t be surprised if it costs as much as a car. Comes in a fancy stick.

46. You can always impress in a mask of spectacular feathers.

You might easily wear this one with a fancy dress. Love the gold and jewel decorations, too.

47. This Venetian mask has some small paintings.

I guess this one is an antique museum piece. Still, you have the love the detail.

48. A mask like this is as simple as black and white.

Well, it’s black on one side and white on the other. And each side has its own decorations.

49. Be the envy of the ball with this golden mask of black feathers.

You can see this fancy gold mask has black glitter around the eyes. But the feathers really show.

50. A golden mask should come with golden roses.

Comes with golden tulle under the golden roses. Still, it’s quite lovely.

51. Capture that mysterious elegance with a mask of black metal.

Has jewels at the top. Nonetheless, I’m sure people will recognize you wearing this one.

52. Jewels can even sparkle among gold embroidery.

Well, it’s quite fancy and ornate. Still, got to love the flowery designs.

53. Perhaps you’d want a small butterfly on your mask.

Well, it’s a fancy mask with a small metal butterfly. Looks quite delicate even with the black stone.

54. A red mask should always be fancy.

This one has jewels at the center. Touched off with a feather, bow, and jewel piece.

55. A purple mask should come with a matching purple feather.

This one is covered with glitter and jewels. Still, love the feathers and jewels on the side.

56. A black lace mask with a jewel can cause quite a sensation.

This one has a bow and jewel at the side. Still, this is quite a magnificent sight to see.

57. Sometimes all a mask needs is a jewel on top.

This one has a jewel on top along with smaller stones around the eyes. Heightens the mystique if you get my drift.

58. You might prefer a black metal mask encrusted with pink jewels.

Well, its quite fancy as it’s delicate. Not sure if I’d want to wear it though.

59. Perhaps you might want a jester mask with a velvet hat.

The hat is mostly purple and green with gold embroidery. Also has glitter on the eyes and a gold ball on the nose.

60. How about a Mardi Gras masks of diamonds?

The diamonds are yellow, green, and purple. Has a plume on the side with those same colors.

61. There’s a certain elegance with a macramé gold mask of jewels.

This one is quite fancy. Though the jewels really shimmer on this mask. Love it.

62. Perhaps you might want this beaky mask of diamonds?

This one has gold on the eyes. Nevertheless, it looks kind of creepy to me.

63. You’d almost think this mask brings music to the ears.

This one is white with golden trimmed eyes and gold and white rope on the edge. Still, it’s quite lovely.

64. You’d almost think this mask was meant for the Queen of Diamonds.

Well, it has quite a regal disposition. But you have to love the pattern and design.

65. How about a white mask with a green cloth flower?

This one has gold trim on the edges and eyes. Yet, I really like the decoration on the side.

66. A mysterious black velvet mask should come with some beaded trim.

This one has jewels and bead decorations. Great for any little black dress at a masquerade.

67. A fancy purple mask should always impress with feathers.

This one has yellow and purple ribbons. Also, includes yellow trim around the eyes and edge. So pretty.

68. With this mask, you’ll be shrouded in mystery.

This gold one includes black and gold glitter. Love the sparkly golden rope edging. And it comes on a stick.

69. Sometimes a simple flower is all you need.

This one has gold embroidery on the eyes and edges. And the purple flower is touched with a purple ribbon.

70. You can make a spectacular entrance with this black feathered mask.

This one has jewels around the face. And it has a black stone on the top above the nose.

71. You might see a tune on this black long nosed mask.

Well, along the eyes at least. Still, you have to love the gold decorative detail on it.

72. Perhaps you might want a mask of black feathers and beads.

Not sure what to make about the feathers. Yet, I do like the black sequins around the eyes.

73. A black mask can always use some purple sparkle.

Got to love the glitter on this one. Really brings out the eyes. There’s also purple trim along the edges, too.

74. How about a pink mask with black lace?

This one has black trim around the eyes and edges. Still, love the black jeweled decoration on the sides.

75. You’d almost think this mask was made for a Spanish tango.

This is a red mask covered in black lace. Includes a red rose and feather. Lovely.

76. You’d almost swear these jewels shimmer like the sun.

This one has purple stones on it as far as I can tell. Love the sparkle.

77. Perhaps a sinister jester mask may suit your fancy.

Well, it certainly seems sinister to me. Still, it has plenty of jingles and shiny cloth for the hat and collar.

78. How about a mask with a feather headdress?

Well, this one has black and blue feathers around the face. Quite exquisite if you ask me.

79. A bright blue mask should be brightly decorated.

Well, it’s a feather swan mask anyway. Comes with a blue feather and all kinds of ribbons.

80. If you want to look like Big Bird’s evil twin, this hooked nose mask is for you.

Well, it’s quite ornate with gold covering part of it. Love the detail. Great if you dressed as a plague doctor.

81. A fancy black mask should come with feathers and flowers.

This one has a black swan in glitter on it. Yet, you have to love the feather and rose on the side.

82. A black and gold mask can always impress.

This one has black and gold flowers and black lace edging. Not sure what the branches are for though.

83. A red and gold mask like can brighten a festive occasion.

Has jewels on the top. Includes red tassels on each side. So pretty.

84. Everyone will remember this blue mask with a black swan.

This one is quite ornate that you have to admire the style. Love the decoration on the other

85. You can easily flutter in this black metal butterfly mask.

Well, it’s not entirely black. But you have to like the beautiful design. Not sure if I’d like to wear it though.

86. A fancy red mask should be decked in jewels and lace.

This is quite lovely. Great with a scarlet dress if you want to be that scarlet woman.

87. How about a red mask with feathers and a swan?

Yes, the red and black feathers are quite high. And the swan is made in gold.

88. It really fans out on a mask like this.

This purple one with quite ornate. Love the lace trim and purple tassel.

89. This jester mask contains many tarot pictures.

Indeed, since it makes the mask seem fancy. Though I’m not really sure what to make of it.

90. You’ll find plenty of fans unfolded on a pink mask like this.

This one has lace on the fan edges as well. Still, not sure if I could hold it in front of my face.

91. Perhaps you might want to wear this mask of encrusted stones.

This one has beads on the edges. Kind of shimmers in the right light. Love it.

92. You can always wow a crowd with this elaborate golden mask.

Indeed, it is quite ornate. Love the gold designs and the beaded fringe.

93. How about the tall feathers on this pink mask?

Well, that’s kind of an understatement. Still, if you can wear this at a party, I’d be impressed.

94. A red flower always accentuates a shiny red mask.

This one has a jewel in the center. Got to love the flowers in this as well.

95. A scarlet mask like this can always wow a crowd.

This one has red flowers and feathers. And yes, it’ll go well with any red dress.

96. How about a mask that brings in the light?

Sure it looks pretty tacky. But putting lights on a mask is quite an original idea.

97. You’ll find plenty of jewels on this Mardi Gras mask.

This one is in white with gold and black glitter as well. But it’s the jewels that truly shine.

98. A blue mask has to have gold and jewels to dazzle.

This one is quite fancy. Love the gold design and the encrusted jewels around the eyes.

99. You can’t go wrong wearing a gold mask with feathers.

This one has some lace on the edge. But the feathers are quite a sight.

100. Perhaps a golden mask would shimmer with a rose.

This one has golden branches with berries along with leaves. But it’s nonetheless magnificent.

The Snowflake Court Smears the FBI

Since Donald Trump became the GOP’s leader, there seems to be no limits to how far the Republicans will go to protect and defend him. Even if it means discrediting longstanding institutions trying to do their job. On Monday, January 29, 2018, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to release a memo painting the FBI and the Justice Department as being biased against Trump so much that people in both agencies have conjured up an investigation into his ties with Russia to take him down. Not surprisingly California Rep. Devin Nunes wrote the memo that reportedly frames Robert Mueller’s investigation as an FBI to hurt Trump as well as uses both Hillary Clinton and the infamous Steele dossier in establishing connections. Trump has until February 2, to declassify the report. But in the meantime, the hashtag #Release the Memo has started spreading on Twitter. We should all know Devin Nunes is the last guy you’d want to lead any investigation into Trump’s Russian connections. And that any memo coming from him stating that the Trump-Russia investigation is a mere conspiracy by law enforcement to hurt Trump is a baseless narrative. He’s a longtime Trump ally and was on his transition team. He’s defended Michael Flynn when he was credibly accused of lying about his Russian contacts last February. As head of the House committee investigating the Trump-Russia connections, Nunes “seemed to go out his way to defend Trump.” The most noteworthy example was after Trump tweeted in March that President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. The heads of both the FBI and the NSA categorically denied such wiretapping took place. But Nunes quickly stood by Trump and held a press conference to proclaim that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition.” What this means is that some Trump personnel had been in contact with foreigners legally under surveillance, and their conversations were intercepted and collected as part of it. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t vindicate Trump’s claim of the Obama administration’s spying on his campaign headquarters. But the timing of Nunes’s press conference and the confusing way he presented made it seem he was trying to cover Trump’s ass. Then it turned out that the California congressman got his information from the Trump White House itself. National Security Council senior intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick uncovered the info. White House attorney Michael Ellis who worked for Nunes prior to the Trump administration, personally delivered the information to him.

In sum, Devin Nunes released information in a way to make it seem like Trump’s claims of being persecuted by law enforcement were true and did so after secretly getting the details from the Trump White House. However, the situation became such an embarrassment that Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the intelligence committee’s investigation into Russia for 8 months during a House ethics investigation into his conduct. Apparently, these measures didn’t stick. Because when news broke out in mid-January that Nunes had been working on a secret memo on FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign, intelligence experts initially sensed a repeat of the wiretapping debacle where he misrepresented intelligence to support Trump’s political position. And in a way, it is.

But many of Nunes’s colleagues in the House saw the memo as damning proof of anti-Trump bias in the FBI. So they started the publicity campaign backed by conservative media to #ReleasetheMemo. This culminated in Monday intelligence committee vote to release it along party lines. That the Republicans would even speculate the FBI and the Justice Department being so against Donald Trump they’d set up an investigation into his Russian ties to specifically hurt him is ridiculous conspiracy nonsense. There are a lot of moving parts to what Nunes reports claiming versus what we already know. 

1. A FISA court judge reviewed evidence and approved a warrant to wiretap a Trump associate.– In fall 2016, FBI investigators applied for a warrant with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to wiretap former Trump adviser Carter Page who has business ties to Russia and open sympathies with the Kremlin’s foreign policy. They presented evidence that he may be acting as a Russian agent and the judge approved the warrant.

2. The Core of the Nunes Argument.– Those familiar with the Nunes memo, Devin Nunes believes that the case was primarily built on the Steele dossier which was funded partially funded on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. He then reportedly said that the investigators misled the judge by not saying they were relying on the Steele dossier. Therefore, the surveillance on Page was improperly authorized and potentially politically motivated

In reality, the FBI got its evidence from several sources and FISA warrants generally require corroboration. Carter Page was known to have business ties to Russia and open sympathies with the Kremlin’s foreign policy. While advising the Trump campaign in July 2016, Page flew to Moscow and met with Russian officials, which raises suspicions among intelligence officials. Besides, Senator Diane Feinstein’s release of the Simpson testimony reveals that the FBI investigation into Trump’s Russia ties most likely began when a drunk George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Not to mention, the DNC email hacking right before the Democratic National Convention. Thus, the FBI had taken the Trump-Russian collusion question seriously for reasons that had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.

Furthermore, while Robert Mueller’s investigation hasn’t yet proven like the vast conspiracy the Steele dossier alleges, it certainly revealed real evidence of wrongdoing. George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty. Charges have been filed against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. We’ve also learned that Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner were at least eager to possibly collaborate with the Russian government into revealing Clinton’s dirty laundry, instead of reporting the existence of an active Russian intelligence effort aimed at the United States. Then there’s the fact the Steele dossier’s less explosive allegations have so far proven to be true. The FBI might’ve relied on the former British agent’s findings since he’s a respected investigator. But if it’s true, it doesn’t necessarily discredit the application.

In addition, the memo’s claims are impossible to without seeing the underlying intelligence it was based on. Nunes could’ve highlighted the FBI’s Steele citation without mentioning other, more concrete sources the agency listed. As University of Texas professor Steve Vladeck said, “The memo won’t actually answer the underlying question, which is whether there was sufficient independent evidence to support the underlying FISA application. Only the application materials can conclusively shed a light on that.

Then there’s the idea that FBI agents would act in such a way and a FISA judge would let them strikes plenty of legal experts as absurd. As civil libertarians have warned about for a long time, the FISA process can and has been abused. But this particular method of abuse requires an implausibly vast conspiracy. As former FBI agent and current Yale Law professor Asha Rangappa writes:

“The Nunes Memo reportedly alleges that at least a dozen FBI agents and DOJ prosecutors fabricated evidence, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit perjury, lucked out on being randomly assigned Judge Low Blood Sugar who looked the other way, and — coincidentally — ended up obtaining evidence that justified extending the initial FISA surveillance. …

“If Nunes has in fact singlehandedly uncovered this vast criminal enterprise, it’s hard to know what’s more astonishing: That a government bureaucracy managed to pull it off — or that Nunes has exposed it all in a scant four-page memo.”

3. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is dragged into this as well.– The Nunes memo reportedly says that Rosenstein knew and approved the application for the warrant knowing they were relying on the DNC-funded Steele dossier. Thus, it would imply that the deputy attorney general has an anti-Trump bias.

In late spring 2017, the FBI petitioned to renew its surveillance warrant on Carter Page. The New York Times claims that Rosenstein personally signed off on the renewal application. As the Times writes, the reason this matters is that, “Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page.” But it’s deeper than that.

The memo apparently implies that the Russian investigation is a corrupt partisan hatchet job. Bring Rosenstein into it, it also indicts the guy currently in charge of it, suggesting he’s incompetent at best and corrupt at worst. Theoretically, this can lead Trump to dismiss Rosenstein. Because he can’t fire Mueller without the deputy attorney general’s say-so. Rosenstein had already said in December that there’s no “good cause” to fire him. If he were to fire the deputy attorney general, he probably could get to Mueller. And we all know Trump wanted to fire Mueller as early as June.

In reality, we forget that the firm behind the dossier was originally hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon in 2015. Hillary Clinton and the DNC didn’t enlist the firm until Trump’s Republican nomination became more imminent. Besides, by the time Christopher Steele turned his dossier to the FBI, the bureau had already been getting reports that there was something shady going on in the Trump campaign. Not to mention, if the Steele dossier was a purely political document, then Steele wouldn’t have turned it in to the FBI out of his British allegiance.

4. The conspiracy comes together.– So why is the Rosenstein angle important? Because if he, as a proxy for the Justice Department, can be seen as anti-Trump, then it means his hiring special counsel Robert Mueller had ulterior anti-Trump motives. Thus, meaning that the entire Trump-Russia investigation is happening because some “deep state” officials want to undermine Trump and take him down. So it’s not being conducted on its own merits.

However, if you think that Nunes’s theory relies on lots of incredible assumptions (some of which having already been disproven), you’re not alone. Assuming the New York Times’s description of the memo is accurate, there are good reasons to be skeptical. Even beyond Nunes’s personal history of misusing intelligence.

Apparently, Republicans in the House have pushed to release the Nunes memo because they believe it outlines surveillance abuses Americans need to know about. As Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said on the House floor, “Let’s have a great debate about its consequences and the opportunity it presents to make things better, so these things never happen again.” However, FISA system experts and even civil libertarians critical of how law enforcement uses it, are skeptical. They clarify that Republicans aren’t proposing any changes to how FISA works or even suggesting that the system in general needs to reform to stop any future abuses. Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez noted, “There’s a conspicuous lack of interest in drawing any policy conclusions from what they purportedly consider a major institutional scandal.”

Instead, the motivation seems purely political as many of the #ReleasetheMemo supporters have also called for Donald Trump to fire Mueller. They may apparently genuinely believe that the Russia investigation is a partisan witch hunt targeting Trump. Or more likely think there is there’s some political advantage gained from championing an anti-FBI crusade near and dear to Trump’s and Fox News’s heart. Either way, experts claim the motivation behind the memo’s release is very clear as a way to wage war on the Russia investigation specifically and the FBI in general. Former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman told Vox, “The release of the memo, and the fabrication of a set of ideas around the memo, empowers Trump to go after the FBI. The ultimate goal is undermining the Mueller investigation. There doesn’t seem to be another reason for the president to be so obsessed with Rod Rosenstein and to be gunning for him.”

Naturally the FBI and the Democrats don’t like the Nunes memo because they think it’s full of lies. The Democrats on the House intelligence committee compiled a 10-page memo of their own. It reportedly asserts two things. First, that the FBI didn’t abuse its FISA power when requesting the Page warrant. Second, that the Nunes memo is simply an effort to help the White House discredit the Mueller probe. On January 29, Rep. Mike Quigley asked Nunes if his staffers worked on this memo with the White House. The California Republican originally answered by saying, “as far as I know,” no one collaborated. But ultimately, he refused to reply, possibly suggesting collusion. Not to mention, the House Intelligence Committee voted not to make the Democratic memo public. On January 31, the FBI released a statement strongly signaling the agency’s worry on the memo’s accuracy:

“The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.

“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. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

While it’s unclear whether Donald Trump will declassify the Nunes memo, he’s signaling he might. Though he has yet to see the memo, after his State of the Union address, he reportedly told Rep. Jeff Duncan that he’d “100 percent” make the memo public in the coming days. The next day, White House chief of staff John Kelly told Fox News that the memo, “will be released here pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it.” Of course, Trump’s reasons for releasing the memo are obvious. Since he’s publicly decried the Trump-Russia probe as a “witch hunt” perpetrated by rouge partisans within the FBI several times. As Cato’s Julian Sanchez told Vox, “Trump is shockingly overt about believing that the problem here is that the FBI is staffed by loyalists to the wrong person. He does, in fact, seem to think that the job of the DOJ, and the FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community is to protect the president and follow his orders — including going after his political enemies based on stuff he saw on Fox News, if that’s what he wants to do.” So Lord Cheetohead could just release the memo as an attempt to prove his suspicions correct. Yet, it can also backfire since it’s possible Nunes’s evidence presented in the memo is thin. Worse, the release fallout could lead to more leaks proving Nunes’s account wrong. That would not only hurt the conservative argument against the Russia probe but prove a self-inflicted wound.

But once the memo’s released, Devin Nunes needs to have a very good case to prove his argument, which he doesn’t. People will want to know his evidence to prove that the Mueller investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign was entirely based on the controversial Steele dossier. The FBI will have to back up its claims that it obtained the Page warrant based on information from a variety of sources showing a probable cause he may have acted as Russian government agent. This will lead to calls to release the FISA documents, which the FBI might find easy to do if the Trump-picked FBI Director Christopher Wray would approve it. Many conservatives are calling for the memo’s release and the FISA documents’ disclosure to show the information included in the warrant application presented to the federal court judge who approved Page’s surveillance. If it’s what conservatives claim, they can proclaim they’ve uncovered a conspiracy. But if the FBI documents show that the FBI told the truth which they most likely will, the Nunes-led narrative will fall apart.

However, we must understand that the Nunes memo is part of a much larger conservative effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. Once it’s released, it’ll serve as another data point in the growing anti-Mueller movement. But it can also be used as pretext for removing those responsible for the Mueller investigation. According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump told his close advisers that the memo could give the excuse he needs to either fire Rosenstein or force him to resign. He then replace the deputy attorney general with someone friendlier to his administration and more willing to constrain Mueller, which can hurt the probe in the long run. According to Rangappa, the new deputy attorney general can effectively cripple the Mueller investigation by rejecting the special counsel’s requests to investigate more people, obtain new evidence, or pursue charges against more people. Or the new appointee could just fire Mueller. Should the Nunes memo’s allegations prove true in the highly unlikely scenario, then that could potentially delegitimize the Mueller probe and lead to the special counsel’s dismissal. Nevertheless, this is more of a political game than a legal one. So the memo’s release will just take this fight into an all-out war between Republicans and the Trump administration who want Rosenstein fired and the Russia probe shut down, and the Democrats and FBI who don’t.

There are two broad ways this political war between the Snowflake King and the FBI can go. In the first, the FBI’s brought to a heel. Donald Trump fires Rod Rosenstein and other senior FBI executives and replaces them with more sycophantic appointees. The Mueller investigation is quashed while the bureau serves more like an arm to the Trump administration than a quasi-independent agency. Of course, the implications of this scenario on American democracy are simply terrifying to think about. For who knows what Trump would use the FBI for than to go after his critics and enemies. As Sanchez told Vox, “I shudder to think what the [2020] election looks like when you’ve got a guy who says, ‘I saw Fox & Friends this morning and my opponent is a crook’ … except now you’ve got an FBI and a DOJ that say, ‘Yes, sir.’” Let’s just say, such scenario would be a nightmare if you value American democratic values, particularly free speech. In the second scenario, the memo leads to a lot of FBI-Republican skirmishing but no actual showdown. Donald Trump doesn’t either fire Rosenstein or is somehow stopped from doing so, the Mueller investigation continues unhampered, and the FBI remains untainted by political influence. There are many factors that could make the difference between the two outcomes. Two of the key ones are congressional Republicans, particularly those in the Senate along with Trump’s own staff.

Senate Republicans have been notably quieter and more restrained in attacking the FBI than their peers in the House. They also have to confirm Donald Trump’s nominees to the Justice Department. They can make it clear that if he fires Mueller or Rosenstein and tries to appoint a crony in their place, they won’t confirm his picks. What Republican senators say and do after the memo’s release could indicate to Trump whether he has enough backing to take on the FBI.

But we must not forget that members of Donald Trump’s own White House have also blocked moves to interfere with the Mueller probe. The New York Times recently reported that in Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn threatened to resign than do that and Trump backed off. He was, according to the Times, concerned that firing the special counsel would incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation.” If McGahn and other voices of relative restraint in the White House succeed in backing Trump away from the memo fever that will soon play out all over conservative news, or even refuse to carry out his orders, then you might see the same thing again after the memo’s released.

Nonetheless, in regards to the current antagonism between the White House and FBI, there is no good historical precedent. Never has a US president attacked so publicly attacked the FBI. Nor have congressional committees with oversight responsibilities have also never attacked the agency this way. There have been tensions between the White House and the FBI over the years, but not so publicly. Russian President Vladimir Putin rightly thought there was a chance of an ally in the White House. And he sanctioned interference in the presidential election to further that goal. Donald Trump wants to be friends with Russia but suffers from a Putin-like hubris and has been hoist by his own petard in that he can’t be friends with friends with Russia without appearing part of Putin’s conspiracy. Still, the memo scandal is a move on the White House’s behalf to tarnish the FBI’s reputation and call the Mueller investigation’s motives in doubt. Even though the man who hired Mueller was one of Trump’s own appointees.

Framing investigative developments as partisan ploys is nothing new. But here, the charges aren’t simply that Mueller is an overzealous prosecutor. It’s that the FBI tried to help throw an entire election. And the House memo seems like it’ll suggest that the FBI was implicated in an attempted coup. The memo release’s long-term significance is that it may confirm some people’s suspicions of how few in government can be trusted to act independently and honestly. Trump and the GOP’s attack on the FBI puts its independence under siege. Bringing an independent judiciary and investigative branch under the executive’s domination is one of the first moves regimes who don’t respect the rule of law. Pinochet’s Chile. Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia. And looking at Trump’s history, the lack of respect for the rule of law is very clear. Besides the military, the judiciary and law enforcement branches are the most powerful in a state. Control and politicization of that wing allows the ruler to criminalize his opponents, and label them as enemies of the state when the those so-called enemies are really defenders of a more viable, democratic nation. This is why the Nunes memo is a threat and I don’t think Trump is above wanting to use the FBI to go after his opponents, which scares the hell out of me. Now the White House seems pressuring the FBI, but it’s too soon to tell whether that leads to the FBI significantly losing its independence. Nevertheless, if Nixon’s debacle with Watergate has taught us, if a president has secrets he wants to keep, he shouldn’t mess with the FBI.