Nunes memo release sets tense stage for cententious week

Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Friday's release of the much-debated Nunes memo ended the intrigue over the document, and set a tense stage for what was already shaping up to be a contentious week.

Members of both parties must now resume talks on how to deal with their most pressing public policy issues: immigration and government funding.

Republicans and Democrats have been trying to find common ground on those matters, and the evidence on Friday showed that effort will continue.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who is chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and championed the memo's release, said he doesn't expect it to change the tone of the debate over the budget and other issues.

"I don't see this as anything that distracts from the legislative process. It certainly is something that cannot be ignored ... but we're also not going to put on the sidelines funding for our military men and women and dealing with immigration," he said.

There will be bickering, but there will also be legislating.

Much of the past five days was spent wrangling over the memo.

The memo prepared by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., purportedly shows a partisan bias by federal investigators and "in my opinion, puts an end to the majority's ability to do any credible, fact-based intelligence assessments," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Democrats attacked Republicans for releasing the memo over the objections of the FBI. Republicans fired back.

"The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans -- something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!" President Donald Trump posted on Twitter.

When Congress returns to Washington Monday, it will have four days to figure out how to keep much of the government open past Thursday, when funding runs out. And the immigration debate will resume as more than 700,000 young immigrants face risk of deportation as a March deadline approached.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are talking to find solutions, because members of Congress are politicians with an eye on the election calendar and a desire to be able to say they got things done.

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Democrats last month backed a deal to end a three-day partial government shutdown in exchange for a Republican pledge to address immigration. That agreement extended government funding through next Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promising to take up immigration legislation as long as the government remains open.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., have been pushing an immigration proposal that included a path to citizenship for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Their proposal is regarded as a starting point for a large group of senators from both parties who have been meeting to find a consensus.

Progress on resolving either issue has been scant so far, and the negotiators will have to deal with lingering bitterness from the memo.

The memo is also raises concern about politicizing U.S intelligence and a widening lack of trust, particularly among lawmakers handling intelligence matters.

"It upends the relationship between the intelligence community and Congress," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. The memo, he said, threatens "the ability for different branches of government to work together to protect the American people's safety."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said: "Elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's job for him."

Some House members said the memo raised serious questions about decisions made by the Justice Department and FBI leadership during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

"We must continue to conduct vigorous congressional oversight, to root out misconduct, ensure reforms are made, and people are held accountable," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., whose committee in October began an investigation into the FBI's handling of its inquiry into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

(c)2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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