On February 2, acting with the authorization of Donald Trump, the Republican leadership of the House Intelligence Committee released a four-page memo produced by its Republican majority on alleged FISA abuses. FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts are the arm of the judiciary that approves electronic surveillance, based on evidence provided by law enforcement.
The memo's central charge is that in securing permission from the FISA court to wire tap Trump campaign staff, the FBI used as evidence a dossier authored by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele on the Trump campaign's Russia ties, but allegedly did not disclose that this dossier was funded, in part, by Hillary Clinton's campaign, and therefore this was politically motivated. It alleges that Steele said he was "desperate that Donald Trump not get elected," and this is "clear evidence of Steele's bias," which was not reflected in the applications and renewals for electronic surveillance.
It is not only the content, but the whole way in which the memo came to be written and published, that represents a further leap in assaulting the norms of how the U.S. bourgeois state has functioned for many decades, and aiming for the imposition of a new norm: a fascist executive power ultimately unconstrained by other branches of government or ruling institutions. In this new model, the role of these others is to facilitate, act as an auxiliary of, and provide cover for the power of the executive branch, which itself is highly concentrated in the hands of the president, creating a force that is not accountable and is all but unchallengeable, either by bourgeois opponents or by the masses of people .
Overall norms of liberal bourgeois democracy that underlie the much vaunted "checks and balances" of the U.S. Constitution, its separation of powers, and the overall rule of law are under fascist assault--and this act marks a step in this direction.
The Republican-fascists who released the memo with Trump's authorization and blessing, with their propaganda organ Fox Fascist News, are using the memo to allege political bias in the FBI leadership against Trump, and to undermine the investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, claiming they originated in the Steele dossier, and therefore are politically motivated. Fox fascist mouthpiece Sean Hannity constantly trumpets the memo revelations as "the biggest political scandal in U.S. history"!
Their refrain is that the warrant would not have been issued had the FISA court known of the funding source. Two points: first, there was much more (including what we don't know) in the request for the warrant, and the warrant has been renewed more than once. Second, and more fundamental, the reality is that in the first 35 years of existence of the FISA courts, 35,529 warrants were requested... and all but 12 of them were granted. Especially since 9/11, the federal government has had almost complete free rein to spy on anyone on the planet (as revealed by Edward Snowden's leaks). The fascists have no problem with that at all. But supposedly the one known time when this routinely granted application for surveillance was applied to a Trump operative, it revealed a grand conspiracy. Besides, the memo itself contains a reference to another staffer potentially triggering the surveillance due to alleged claims he made independently about the Russians having access to emails from the Clinton campaign.
The memo names present and recent past leadership of the FBI and the Justice Department as requesting the specific electronic surveillance, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (overseeing the Mueller investigation), former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (recently forced to resign), and former FBI Director James Comey (fired by Trump last May). The Republican-Fascist Noise Machine argues that the leadership of the FBI has been part of an ongoing politically motivated attack and conspiracy to undermine Trump's presidency. Alleging its anti-Trump bias and roots, they question the credibility and objectivity of the Mueller investigation (of alleged Trump campaign cooperation with Russia in tampering with the 2016 election, and related obstruction of justice), calling for its dismissal.
Donald Trump Jr. said the memo meant "game over" for the Mueller investigation, echoed by Hannity and others. Donald Trump himself tweeted, "This memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe." Arizona congressman Paul Gosar demanded that the high-ranking present and former officials named in the memo be tried for "treason"--which can carry the death penalty!Shredding of Norms: An Act Towards Fascist Consolidation
Along with the Democrats, the memo's release was strongly opposed by the intelligence agencies, with the FBI issuing a rare public statement to express its "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." These concerns and opposition, voiced by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, has also been echoed by past leaders of the intelligence agencies like John Brennan, the previous head of the CIA, who angrily charged that the "absence of moral and ethical leadership in the White House is fueling this government crisis."
We don't know all the divisions and splits within ruling class institutions sparked by the election and coming to power of this fascist regime. What is clear is that the release of the memo against the advice of the FBI, the director of national intelligence, and others represents a breaking of norms in how ruling class institutions function in relation to each other. It also represents a deliberate act towards consolidating fascism, taking on obstacles to its program and will, including in the state apparatus itself.
Despite Rosenstein's opposition to the release of the memo, and Christopher Wray, FBI director, saying that its release would cause "grave" harm to national security, Trump declassified the whole thing. Drawing on "top secret" government documents that intelligence committee members are sworn to protect, and legally forbidden to publish or even publicly discuss, Republicans found an almost never used loophole to justify doing so. House speaker Paul Ryan said they must "cleanse the organization," referring to the FBI. Translation: a "purified" FBI thoroughly "partisan" towards the fascist program (and loyal to Donald Trump).
Trump's public disregard of the warnings of key leaders of the FBI and the Justice Department were a way of asserting his uncontested authority over major, supposedly independent, institutions of the executive branch. Many commentators have even described the Trump regime as being "at war" with its own Justice Department and the FBI.
In fact, the reason all manner and stripe of Republican-fascists are so cravenly loyal to the notoriously dis loyal and treacherous Trump, is because of his willingness and ability to shred and shatter the old norms that have stood as barriers to achieving the aims and objectives of all the fascist currents, from Christian fundamentalists, to white supremacists, to anti-immigrant xenophobes.
Along with attacking those resolutely opposed to fascism and the capitalist-imperialist system of which it is a part, one of the main lines of attack of the fascists is "Weimar," or liberal bourgeois democracy (drawing from the Weimar Republic, the bourgeois-democratic republic in Germany after World War 1, replaced and forcibly abolished when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in the 1930s)--even though it represents the rule of the same capitalist-imperialist system, though of a section of its ruling strata with sharp differences with fascism. The Republican-fascist attack on the specific people named in the memo, on these institutions of law enforcement, on the Democrats and the media, and on these norms is part of the attack on Weimar. The fascist social base has been whipped up and further hardened around this through the release of this memo, and the braying of the Republican-fascist noise machine and its propagandists, which include the Fox Fascist News anchors.
Some liberal talking heads, including Rachel Maddow, are celebrating the fact that upon release, the memo was revealed to be nothing but a smattering of lies and distortions mixed with hot air, and that even if one accepted its allegations as true, what it is describing is not "scandalous," or even inappropriate action by the FBI. But they miss, misinform, and mislead. These liberal commentators avoid--and regardless of intent, deceive the people on--the fundamental point of all this marking an act towards fascist consolidation.