(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) THE MORNING PLUM: The release of new documents relating to the genesis of the Russia probe — and President Trump’s response to those documents this morning — throw the asymmetry between the parties that is the driving fact of our politics right now into perhaps its starkest relief yet.
This morning, the New York Times’s Charlie Savage has a great piece on the White House’s decision over the weekend to release documents revealing the FBI’s application to a FISA court to run secret surveillance on former Trump campaign official Carter Page.
The bottom line: The documents lay waste to much of the narrative about the FBI investigation pushed by Trump — and GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who enshrined that story line in his much-discussed memo — while largely confirming that Democratic efforts to correct that narrative have been offered accurately and in good faith.
The Trump/Nunes narrative rests heavily on the idea that the FBI probe into the Trump campaign was illegitimate, because it was triggered by the “Steele Dossier.”
The Nunes memo in January charged that to spy on the Trump campaign, the FBI failed to disclose that former British spy Christopher Steele’s research had originally been funded for political purposes (which Trump and his allies maintain shows the probe had tainted origins).
In his rebuttal memo at the time, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California — Nunes’s counterpart — disputed this, noting that the FBI’s application for the warrant did, in fact, disclose that Steele was hired by “politically motivated persons” to “discredit” the Trump campaign.
The application contained a whole page detailing the FBI’s conclusion that Steele had been hired to do “research” to “discredit” the Trump campaign, and that the FBI deemed Steele credible anyway, having relied on his information in the past.
In sum, the new documents show the FBI suspected that a top Trump official (Page) was collaborating with Russia to sabotage the 2016 election, perhaps along with others.
As Savage bluntly concludes of the Nunes-Schiff battle over this FBI application: “In respect after respect, the newly disclosed documents … corroborated rebuttals by Democrats … who had seen the top-secret materials and accused Republicans of mischaracterizing them to protect the president.”
Many journalists have pointed out that the new documents reveal that Trump and Nunes have been deceiving the public.
* GOP SENATOR: FBI DIDN’T SPY ON TRUMP CAMP: On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) dismisses the idea that the FBI “spied” on the Trump campaign based on surveillance of Carter Page: “I don’t believe that them looking into Carter Page means they were spying on the campaign.
* GOP CANDIDATES’ RESPONSE TO TRUMP IS SILENCE: The Post reports that Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin is only the latest thing that GOP candidates in tough races have been forced to pretend isn’t happening: While members of Congress in safely Republican districts are free to always side with Trump, those serving in more moderate districts have repeatedly found themselves squeezed between their need to court Trump supporters and the friction his actions have prompted in their districts.
* TRUMP’S TRADE WAR WILL HURT GOP IN MIDTERMS: The Post report also contains this nugget: Trump is determined to make trade part of the midterm discussion — even though many in the White House are skeptical that it is a good issue, particularly in battleground Midwestern states.
* DEMS COULD WIN MANY GOVERNORSHIPS: The New York Times has a good overview of rising worry among Republicans that they could lose a lot of governor’s mansions this cycle: Just as Republicans pulled a host of moderate states significantly to the right after their success eight years ago, victorious Democrats could enact sweeping changes on labor, health care and energy … new Democratic governors could … block Republicans from repeating the post-2010 gerrymandering that helped entrench their power in Congress.
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