What Is “The Memo?” And Why Are Russian Bots Demanding to Release It?

If you’ve spent time on Twitter in the last 24 hours (and if you haven’t, congratulations), you’ve likely seen an odd hashtag blowing up political and Trump-supporter feeds: #ReleaseTheMemo.

Like virtually everything related to the Republican role in investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, it’s a mix of bad faith, conspiracy theorizing, memes, blaming the Clintons and Obama, and Russian bots. So many Russian bots.

“The Memo” is a classified report put together by House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes, infamous for his continual attempts to sabotage his own Committee’s investigation, which he eventually had to recuse himself from.

But Nunes is still at it, authoring what The Hill referred to as “a classified report that [Republicans] say reveals political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice in the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling.”

Republican House members on the Committee, including a number of vociferous Trump supporters, have called “the memo” a shocking documentation of Obama-era abuses of FISA, the law that allows for domestic surveillance of Americans under suspicion of consorting with foreign agents.

They allege that it’s a scandal worse than Watergate, and that the Memo blows open a retched hive of deep state , FBI, and Democratic treason – with scores of indictments and flights to Gitmo to follow.

Democrats, naturally, have pushed back. House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff  wrote it off as “rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read.”

As with so much of the Trump/Russia debacle, what you believe tends to correspond to what party you support. . But as an avid watcher of the Russiagate, and a prolific consumer of conspiracy theories, here are a few thoughts on #ReleaseTheMemo:

– The demand to release the memo is pointless, because Nunes and House Intelligence could release it whenever they want. Nunes can’t unilaterally release it, but he can hold a Committee vote, and if Republicans all vote to release it, it would go to the president to sign off on. If it’s so explosive and damaging to the “witch hunt” against Trump, why not do it?

– The railing against “FISA abuses” from House Republicans would hold a lot more water if these same House Republicans hadn’t overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize FISA just a week ago, rejecting proposed changes that would increase privacy safeguards. Among the biggest backers of the FISA re-authorization was Devin Nunes, who hailed it as “a big step to ensure the continuation of one of the intelligence community’s most vital tools for tracking foreign terrorists.”

– Intelligence experts, including some vocal Republicans, have agreed that Nunes’ memo is likely nonsensical, the desperate work of a politician whose inexplicable antics in defending President Trump have sapped his credibility. It’s likely nothing more than an obvious attempt to derail Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump – which seems to be picking up more steam every day.

– The popularity of the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag is almost certainly the work of a desperate and feverish Russian active measures campaign. Business Insider found that Russian-linked Twitter accounts have been pushing it out at an astonishing rate, with a 233,000% percent spike (that’s not a typo) over the last two days.

Additionally, many of the posts came loaded with instant memes, something than an organic surge of public outrage wouldn’t have. It’s terrifying that so many US Members of Congress can be tricked (or actively decide) into carrying water for a Russian active measure, but hey, desperate times require desperate deeds (done dirt cheap.)

– “The memo” is inexorably linked to the far right’s hottest new conspiracy theory “The Storm.” If you haven’t heard of it (and again, congratulations) “the Storm” takes the mythology of Pizzagate and cranks it up to maximum weirdness. It revolves around President Trump personally busting a worldwide sex trafficking cult, and an insider called “Q,” who drops cryptic “breadcrumbs” of classified intelligence on 4chan to get people ready for the mass arrest of thousands of politicians, wealthy bankers, and global figures – an event Q calls “the Storm.”

Many of the same people who fervently push that conspiracy theory are also demanding the release of the Nunes memo, and using Storm hashtags in their posts. The supposed mass purge of Democrats that “the memo” would bring is identical to that of “the Storm,” with numerous references to scofflaws being shipped off to Gitmo – much like “the Storm.”

In the end, Nunes either will or won’t hold a vote to release his supposedly shocking memo. It doesn’t really matter. Nunes’ credibility is shot in terms of anything to do with Trump and Russia, and nothing contained in a document supposedly rife with errors and suppositions is going to change anyone’s mind.

It’s also not going to get the Trump/Russia story to go away., nor is it going to throw Mueller off the trail (or lead to his arrest, as some Republicans are claiming.) Every day, more bad news leaks out for the 45th president and the people who enabled his rise.

No Russian active measure or desperate Hail Mary by a few members of Congress is going to change that.

 

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