RCP executive editor Tom Bevan joined Fox News Channel's Shep Smith Thursday afternoon to discuss the push to release the classified memo prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes alleging political bias at the Justice Department and FBI. Democrats on the Intel Committee allege the memo is confusing, distracting, and lacking context, while Republicans say it must be made public soon because it is so important.
SHEP SMITH: A memo can be a weapon of partisan mass distraction, especially at a pivotal moment in American history when it behooves the man in charge for supporters to believe the institutions can't be trusted, investigators are corrupt, and the news media are liars. Context matters.
Tom, it was pointed out on another network that the top four stories being aggregated by RealClearPolitics (not written by, but aggregated) yesterday were all of this same ilk. What does this say about the national discussion?
TOM BEVAN: Well look Shep, I think there is interest, obviously, in this memo -- among Republicans and among partisans -- because of the way it has been described by Republicans in Congress who have seen it.
They have been shocked by it, and without actually getting into the contents of it, talked about what it outlines. And that is why we've seen this push to make it public, so the public can actually see what's in this memo.
SHEP SMITH: It reportedly tears down the investigators in the FBI, and other. [Nunes] will not show it to them, though they have asked for it, so it can be prepared for declassification, which the president can do. That he has not yet done.
It gives them [Republicans] a weapon of mass distraction in the middle of this [Mueller] investigation. Doesn't it?
TOM BEVAN: Well, that is what critics have said this is entirely about, trying to undermine the special counsel and potentially undermine his findings.
I do think, Shep, it represents what has been going on here for months, which is Republicans have this frustration -- as a co-equal branch of government, they have oversight over the executive branch, of which the FBI and DOJ are part. Chuck Grassley just said yesterday that the FBI has not been cooperative, slow-walking, things like that.
And so that, I think, is part of the Republicans' frustration that after a year of investigation, we still don't know the answer of: 'Was this [Steele] dossier used as a pretext for the FISA request [to spy on members of the Trump campaign]?' Why don't we know that information?
Those are the kinds of questions that even after a year, we still don't have the answers to. I think that is part of what Republicans' frustrations are with the Dept. of Justice and the FBI.
SHEP SMITH: There is an investigation underway, isn't there? Isn't the idea that that investigation will get the answers and put them out there?
TOM BEVAN: Well, yes, Shep. But at the same time, the question is why hasn't some of this information been made public yet. Why couldn't we have the answer to that question?
About whether the [Steele] dossier was used to get the FISA request to--
SHEP SMITH: The dossier which was put together by Fusion GPS, which was originally for a Republican, which was taken over by the Clinton camp, and the dossier through which there is no suggestion so far that anything in it can be knocked down. Right?
TOM BEVAN: There's also no suggestion that anything in it has been verified.
SHEP SMITH: We haven't been reporting on that dossier. That wasn't the topic of this interview today. The topic of discussion was this memo, which if there is a basis for it to be released, the Trump administration and its people could have done that. They've asked to see it and [Nunes] won't even let [the Trump Justice Dept.] see it.
It seems to be a classic weapon of mass distraction.
TOM BEVAN: Well, that is certainly your opinion, and it is shared by others.
I'm just trying to point out that part of what this memo alleges is FISA abuse, on the part of the FBI and DOJ -- as far as I've read, my understanding of the memo.
SHEP SMITH: You've read it? The Nunes memo that Nunes wrote.
TOM BEVAN: No, I have not.
SHEP SMITH: I haven't read it either.
TOM BEVAN: It is classified, no. There are about a hundred Republicans in the House who have seen it, and read it, and I think a couple Democrats, but that's about it right now.