Bernstein blasted Donald Trump’s White House and Republicans like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) who helped release a GOP memo on Friday attacking the FBI and Justice Department investigation of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Bernstein called the memo a “disingenuous partisan document.”
“We may well have not seen such dark days for American democracy and its institutions since the days of Joe McCarthy,” Bernstein told CNN’s Jake Tapper, referring to the notorious communist “witch hunts” orchestrated by the Wisconsin Republican senator in the 1950s. “In the case of McCarthy, it was a senator, not the president of the United States, who was a demagogic authoritarian.”
The GOP memo alleges that the FBI and Justice Department misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant against Page last October. The memo, written by GOP staffers, claims that the court was unaware that a dossier of alleged Trump-Russia connections was gathered by a former British intelligence agent working for a company doing opposition research on Trump for the Democrats.
Bernstein said he believes the memo, which did not contain all of the information that led to the warrant, is a “red herring” intended to derail special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
Trump should have “enough confidence in our institutions” to let them investigate Russian activity and determine “whether or not the Trump Organization, the president of the United States, his family and aides were involved in some way,” Bernstein said.
“Right now, we have the unprecedented situation of one of the major political parties ... backing the president in showing and believing that he is above the law.”
He later added, “In the whole Cold War, the Russians were not able to do what [Vladimir] Putin has done through Donald Trump — to destabilize the United States and its democratic institutions. It’s stunning. It’s ruinous.”
Bernstein said he hoped the Republicans, who have always had a reputation as being toughest on the Russians, will stop following the president in “lockstep” and “get hold of their senses.”
If they “cannot see how Donald Trump has been manipulated, and how Donald Trump is using this [memo] to avoid legitimate investigation and to poison the institutions of American democracy, then the Republican Party is taking us somewhere where we haven’t been before.”