EDITORIAL: The real worry about Nunes memo is Trump’s ‘vindication’ claims and the conceit itself

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At this point, it’s impossible to tell if some or any of the allegations raised by the now-infamous Congressman Devin Nunes Memo made public Friday warrant immediate concern of Congress or Americans.

Gravely disconcerting, however, are President Donald Trump’s blatantly false claims that the memo “totally vindicates” him in dismissing allegations of Russian collusion and obstructing a criminal investigation into his presidential campaign.

Trump — and partisan GOP members of Congress complicit in this Nunes Memo charade — evokes the dark and dangerous days of the Nixon Watergate scandal. The stunt is alarming because it’s so clear the Nunes memo was solely created to discredit the FBI and the Robert-Mueller-led Trump-Russia criminal investigation.

A wide range of former Justice Department officials from past Democratic and Republic administrations, and a growing number of current Republican members of Congress, slammed not only the Nunes memo, but Trump’s claims that it somehow clears him from investigations into Russian collusion and obstruction, as well.

Nunes implied that Justice officials obtained court permission to spy on members of the Trump campaign based on sketchy information obtain by Trump’s political foes. But a virtual parade of credible Republicans came forth almost immediately saying Nunes’ allegations are unsupported by the classified details used in his report.

The memo was little more than a poorly cited essay begging for rebuttal.

Sadly, it could be that process used to obtain permission to spy on the Trump campaign is faulty. Like many Americans, we, too, have ongoing concerns about the potential abuse of the dangerous power of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act system. It was a great loss to the country when former Colorado Sen. Mark Udall lost his seat to Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner for this reason alone. Udall was a dependable warrior against FISA abuses and a non-partisan champion in ensuring the process was kept in check.

The immediate concern about the Nunes memo is that there appears to be a small but powerful group of Republicans willing to join Trump in trying to undermine the FBI investigation, and they’re willing to go to these lengths to do it.

While Trump’s tweets and impromptu remarks are regularly baseless and hyperbolic, his brief missive Sunday sets off alarms about just what he might do to snuff the criminal investigation.

“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” Trump said in a Sunday morning tweet. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their (sic) was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

Key members of Congress have come forward to warn Trump that he could set off a “constitutional crisis” by invoking the play book of Richard Nixon in trying to fire investigators to get them off his trail.

Whether it would create a “crisis” might, also, be hyperbole, but it would demand that Congress take over the Mueller probe and hand it to an independent investigator to complete. Such a move would set up the 2018 mid-term congressional elections as a referendum on Trump’s impeachment, if the GOP-led House and Senate refused to hold impeachment hearings and a trial before then.

Americans have grown weary of Trump’s seemingly endless ploys, making audacious stunts like this one all the more dangerous because of the widespread fatigue of news of Trump’s near daily antics.

The public, however, needs to not only pay close attention to this especially worrisome ruse, but to closely watch who in Congress ignores or falls behind it.