by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Journalists and commentators are working to discredit Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., for his lead role in finding apparent conflicts of interest and unprofessional conduct in the Justice Department, though much of that criticism has come without any specific examples of wrongdoing by Nunes.
Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released the long-awaited, Republican-backed memo that claims the FBI relied on the now-famous anti-Trump “dossier,” authored by Trump critic and former British spy Christopher Steele, to justify further spying on Trump associate Carter Page ahead of the 2016 election. The dossier was funded in part by Hillary Clinton’s Democratic campaign, raising questions about whether it was appropriate to use a partisan document as justification to spy on a political opponent.
In the lead-up to and following the memo’s release, prominent voices in the media attacked Nunes as a shill for the White House peddling a memo filled with inaccurate information. …
… But while they dismissed Nunes as a pro-Trump partisan, they didn’t identify any specific inaccuracy in the memo.
The four-page document charged that the FBI did rely on the Steele dossier to seek approval from the FISA court to surveil Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser. And it alleged that the partisan nature of the dossier, which has remained largely unsubstantiated, was not disclosed to the court.
In a point that favored Democrats, the memo also acknowledged that the dossier was not the basis for the ongoing Russia probe, and said instead that the investigation began with George Papadopoulos in July 2016. U.S. intelligence reportedly began monitoring Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign associate, for having been in contact with Russian officials.
The media liked that part of it and focused on it. But few had an explanation or argument for the memo’s findings on the Page FISA warrant, and instead offered vague dismissals.