Both reports were based on the same exact evidence. Nunes told the truth; Schiff did not
ronically, a week that included the introduction of two articles of impeachment turned out to be one of the best of Donald Trump's presidency.
First, there was Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's long-awaited report on the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 election. Horowitz declared himself unable to state conclusively that the initial investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign via electronic surveillance of low-level campaign advisor Carter Page was motivated by political bias against Trump.
But Horowitz didn't deny the possibility, and he provided ample circumstantial evidence of bias against Trump from the very start. He identified no less than 17 egregious errors in the preparation of affidavits in support of four applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to eavesdrop on Page. Worst of all, the FBI knew that far from being a Russian plant, Page was actually working for the CIA. FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who worked for a period of time on Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's team, changed a CIA statement that Page was a CIA source to read that he was not a CIA source, and the altered statement was included in one of the FISA applications.
The IG's report found that the so-called Steele dossier had played a central role in the granting of permission to eavesdrop on Carter Page, and that the FBI failed to inform the FISA court that the dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Nor did the FBI inform the FISA court that the main source upon whom the dossier was based had repudiated much of what Steele had allegedly quoted from him and had characterized what he did actually say as little more than "bar talk," i.e., hearsay based on hearsay.
The failures of the FBI detailed in the Horowitz report were so numerous, of such magnitude, and so lacking in any credible justification that they could only bolster President Trump's claim that he had been targeted by the Obama administration's FBI, and that the current charges against him are nothing but a continuation by other means of the three years of hyped-up charges of collusion with Russia, for which special prosecutor Robert Mueller failed to turn up any credible evidence. Life-long Democrat Professor Alan Dershowitz described the Democrats as acting in accord with the dictum of the brutal head of the NKVD under Stalin, Lavrenty Beria: "Show me the man and I'll show you the crime."
The IG's report also established that Rep. Adam Schiff, who as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was the chief architect of impeachment hearings against Trump, is a shameless liar. In early 2018, ranking House Intelligence Committee Republican member Devin Nunes and Schiff filed duelling findings on the hearings conducted about the origins of Operation Crossfire Hurricane. In the snarky description of the Washington Post, Nunes's memo was a "joke and a sham. . . as [he strained] every which way to suggest that the basis for the warrant [to spy on] Carter Page was the so-called 'Steele Dossier,' which contained Democratic-funded research by former British spy Christopher Steele."
Schiff's rebuttal asserted that the Steele dossier was only one of many sources relied upon in obtaining the FISA warrant and that it had been corroborated by the FBI in a "rigorous process." He further stated that the application for a warrant had informed the FISA court of Steele's potential bias, and that the eavesdropping on Page had yielded valuable information.
But Horowitz's report confirmed every assertion of Nunes's report and thoroughly trashed every word of Schiff's. The Steele dossier played "a central and essential role" in the warrant application, which would otherwise have been dropped, wrote Horowitz. Not only was the dossier uncorroborated, the FBI attempts to do so only resulted in undercutting its credibility. Furthermore, the investigation of Page resulted in no valuable information. And contra Schiff, Steele's prior reporting had never been used by the FBI in criminal proceedings.
Both the Nunes and Schiff reports were based on the same exact evidence before the committee. Nunes told the truth; Schiff did not.
The IG's report also constituted a black day for Trump's perpetual nemesis, the prestige media, which has long served as a Democratic Party "echo chamber," in the words of President Obama's former senior advisor, Ben Rhodes. Left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote that Horowitz had unearthed "a scandal of historic magnitude, not only for the FBI but also the US media."
Not that the media had much credibility left to lose after hysterically hyping the "Russian collusion" narrative for close to three years. One of the funniest clips I've ever seen splices together dozens of TV talking heads during the Mueller investigation promising their viewers: "Today marks the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency;" "The walls are closing in on President Trump;" and the like.
And just as that same media continuously assured us that Mueller's team of brilliant Harvard, Yale and Columbia graduates would make mincemeat of the Trump defense team, which boasted not one graduate of a top five law school, so too was it unanimous in pronouncing Nunes a dunce and country bumpkin, who had been revealed as such by the Stanford and Harvard Law-trained Schiff.
THE FINAL PEG of Trump's great week was the very thinness of the articles of impeachment themselves. The second article accused the president of not complying with congressional subpoenas "without lawful cause or excuse." It cannot get weaker than that. The place for litigation of claims of executive privilege is the courts, and House Democrats made no effort to do that.
Prof. Michael Gehrhardt testified that if President Trump's alleged threat to withhold military aide from Ukraine unless it announced an investigation of former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter does not constitute an impeachable offense, "What does?" Pace my former freshman counselee, the idea that Trump's actions with respect to Ukraine constitutes one of the three gravest offenses in the history of the republic is risible. No president other than Donald Trump would have been impeached on that basis. Impeachment is payback for his effrontery in winning the 2016 election.
Stanford professor Pam Karlan suggested in her House testimony that Trump harbors dictatorial tendencies. True, no one suspects that Trump prepared for the presidency by reading The Federalist Papers or boning up on the American system of checks and balances. Yet his alleged abuse of power pales in comparison to the IRS's discrimination against conservative nonprofits and the FBI's spying on a rival's presidential campaign under President Obama. And Obama's repeated communications with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her unsecured private server, which violated multiple government regulations, constitutes a far graver offense.
Speaking of which, can there have been a greater abuse of power than Clinton's use of her position as Secretary of State to shakedown foreign donors on behalf of the Clinton Foundation (the likely reason she needed a private server in the first place)? If the Democrats are so hot and bothered now over the alleged withholding of defensive weapons systems from Ukraine, why were they not similarly concerned when President Obama denied those same systems to Ukraine outright? President Trump ultimately delivered the anti-tank missiles and other weapon systems to Ukraine.
And similarly, if the Democrats are so shocked by the withholding of US aid for partisan or private benefit, why are they not more curious about then-Vice President Biden's boast to reporters that he had Ukraine's special prosecutor fired by threatening the withdrawal of US aid? That would be the same special prosecutor who claims to have been investigating Burisma, the corrupt Ukrainian oil company, which had shortly before that appointed Biden's son Hunter to its board of directors at a hefty salary, despite his lack of any oil industry background.
IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE WATERGATE hearings of my youth, Americans have largely tuned out the current impeachment hearings. The longer they drone on, the more support for impeachment declines, including 13% among Democrats in one week (likely out of recognition that impeachment has become an electoral albatross).
At least one national poll at week's end showed for the first time Trump defeating every current Democratic contender. A good week indeed.