Trump’s first comments on the GOP memo reveal what this is really about

"You figure that one out."

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During a brief interaction with the press at the White House on Friday, President Trump alluded to what he’s ultimately hoping to accomplish by allowing the public release of a memo prepared by Republican congressional staffers alleging that intelligence community officials improperly used information from a political research group in FISA applications — and it isn’t the protection of anyone’s civil liberties.

“I think it’s terrible if you want to know the truth, I think it’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “What’s going on in this country, I think it’s a disgrace… a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that.”

Trump ignored a question about if he’s “not concerned that the FBI doesn’t want the memo out,” but he did respond to a query about whether he still has confidence in deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. The memo says Rosenstein “signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ,” and Trump suggested he no longer thinks Rosenstein is fit to serve.

“You figure that one out,” Trump said, alluding to Rosenstein’s job security.

That Trump is using the memo to try and undermine Rosenstein — the top DOJ official overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — isn’t a surprise. On Tuesday evening, the Washington Post reported that Trump “has told close advisers recently that the memo could provide him with grounds for either firing or forcing [Rosenstein] to leave, according to one person familiar with his remarks.” Then, on Thursday, CNN reported that President Trump is looking for ways to “discredit the Russia investigation,” with an eye toward perhaps firing the DOJ official overseeing it — namely, Rosenstein.

Numerous House Republicans have already indicated that they’ll continue to support the president even if he fires Rosenstein and appoints a new deputy attorney general who moves to curtail or end the Mueller investigation. Others, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), are posturing that their support for making the memo public has to do with protecting Page’s civil liberties.

But the memo provides no indication that Page’s civil liberties were violated. All it indicates is that information that was originally gathered by a political research group that was compensated by the Democratic National Committee was used as part of an application to obtain a FISA warrant on Page. The memo even acknowledges that the origins of the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign actually had nothing to do with Page, and instead can be traced back to another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser boasting to an Australian diplomat that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

That Trump’s interest in the memo everything to do with his desire to curtail the Russia investigation was revealed on Tuesday, when he was caught on a hot mic telling a House Republican that he “100 percent” supported releasing the memo — despite the fact he hadn’t even read it at the time.