WASHINGTON ― As news broke that President Donald Trump authorized the release of a GOP memo on Friday meant to undermine the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s links to Russian officials, several right-wing outlets appeared to have received excerpts in advance.
Before House Republicans published the document online, Fox News anchors began reading “exclusive first excerpts,” and the Washington Examiner and The Federalist teased that they had the memo’s contents.
Trump and congressional Republicans defended the release as a move toward “transparency” in the Russia investigation, which they have repeatedly alleged is a partisan “witch hunt.”
Yet the fact that media outlets friendly to Trump obtained portions of the memo before its actual release further underscores the political nature of the document, and suggests it’s meant solely to cast doubt on the Russia investigation and propel unprecedented partisan attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice.
In the run-up to its release, right-wing media defenders of Trump feverishly and breathlessly claimed the memo was highly damaging and provided evidence of Department of Justice and FBI bias against Trump.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s staunch allies, has regularly claimed that supposed wrongdoing in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is worse than Watergate.
“This makes Watergate look like stealing a Snickers bar,” he said earlier this week.
But in reality, the memo appears to mostly confirm already reported aspects of the investigation and omits facts that do not conform to Republicans’ narrative.
In authorizing the memo’s release, Trump went against the FBI’s “grave concerns” about the memo. Hours before the release on Friday morning, he continued his relentless attacks on the DOJ and FBI, claiming its top leaders were biased ― even though he appointed them, and many of the investigation’s key figures are Republicans themselves.
Later Friday, the White House suggested it would be open to releasing a counter memo from the Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, who opposed the GOP’s memo. Because they were outnumbered on the committee, Republicans blocked them from releasing their own document, which they said laid out the inaccuracies of the GOP memo.
“Minority members of the Committee have reportedly drafted a separate memorandum. The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods,” the White House said in a statement.