The Short Version: Nunes & Schiff Memos
The point of it all is to break down the headlines, determine why an issue is important, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.
Recently Cleo turned her attention to the new federal rules on pot, asking whether the federal government should allow states to legalize weed without interference. (Guess what we here in Telluride think.) This time she asks: Should the Trump administration authorize the release of both the Nunes and the Schiff memos?
Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.
Two opposing memos have enormous implications for the Trump-Russia investigation. One’s still secret.
In mid-January, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes wrote a private memo to the rest of the House Intelligence Committee, the permanent select committee currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In “the Nunes memo,” he made an astonishing claim: that the Clinton campaign paid for the creation of the Steele dossier (the notorious document on the Trump-Russia connection… it’s the pee tape dossier) and the FBI used it in their application to start surveillance of former Trump advisor Carter Page. The big-picture accusation here is that the FBI is abusing its power in a coordinated effort to bring down President Trump.
But there’s no evidence of any wrongdoing. And the memo seems part of a larger attack on the credibility of the FBI, aimed at undermining the Trump-Russia investigation.
So Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote a detailed rebuttal. It’s not public, but “the Schiff memo” reportedly defends the FBI’s application process to surveil Page and lays out the case that Nunes cherry-picked information in order to help Trump undercut the FBI investigation.
Over the last few weeks, House Republicans voted to release both memos.
But President Trump has so far only authorized one to become public.
Why is it important?
President Trump is in an awkward spot. By authorizing the Nunes memo and not (yet) the Schiff memo, he’s opened himself to the criticism that he’s a hypocrite. But it may be in his best interest to prevent Schiff from exposing specific ways the original memo twisted information to help him.
He may also want to consider the real concerns that these documents reveal too much classified and sensitive information. The FBI has sought to redact parts of both memos. Though it’s hard to argue that only one of the two should be released, there’s a strong case that neither should have been.
For now, Trump has asked that Democrats send back a new version with parts removed. Congress doesn’t technically need his approval; If refused again, the House Intelligence Committee could ask for a full House vote, though it may be unlikely to pass.
The two memos heighten the tension between the Trump administration and the Department of Justice, which houses the FBI. Trump, Congressional Republicans, and conservative activists have been ramping up efforts to dismiss key FBI leadersand discredit an investigation that is looking worse and worse for the president.
Should the Trump administration authorize the release of both memos?
Why The Short Version on TIO?
About 10 ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)
And now, this weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance.
“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.
Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.
More about Cleo Constantine Abram:
Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.
Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.
Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.
She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.
Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.
Cleo has also studied video storytelling at Columbia Journalism School.
Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.