Trump is set to release a memo written by Devin Nunes that alleges that high-ranking officials in the FBI were out to get him and that the agency didn’t properly vet a FISA warrant it obtained to surveil Trump aide Carter Page. The memo itself is unlikely to contain any smoking guns. That’s partly because its author is not particularly sharp, and partly because the campaign pushing for its release has been so overblown. But it’s mostly because the memo was designed to provide cover for Trump, who is desperately trying to undermine the FBI and the Mueller investigation.
The memo, this thinking goes, will allow Trump, whose criticisms of the agency and the special counsel have little basis in reality, to hang his critique to something tangible. This could ostensibly allow him to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation, or Robert Mueller himself. Or it could simply give him something to bang on about as the investigation goes on.
Given the memo’s significant credibility problems and the fact that it has enormously pissed off the FBI, this was a risky tactical move. But in Trump’s hands, it becomes even riskier. Take this tweet, from this morning:
Here, Trump is setting up the messaging for the memo, which he claims shows that the FBI set out to undermine him because of its preference for Democrats. Trump’s half-hearted attempt to surgically remove the leadership of the FBI from its rank-and-file is funny, but the big problem here is that Trump is dealing with an obstruction of justice probe relating to former FBI Director James Comey—who Trump initially said he fired for his unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Even when Trump tries to discredit the investigation against him he ends up bolstering it.