The Russia saga just produced 'one of the darker days of the past 40 years for democracy'

  • A slew of revelations on Monday may amount to a turning point in the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
  • On Monday, FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe stepped down and Republicans voted to publicly release a secret memo alleging surveillance abuse by top law enforcement.
  • Republicans insist they have the right to be concerned about potential corruption within the FBI and the DOJ. But Democrats argue that attacks against law enforcement are meant to undermine the Russia probe.

In less than 24 hours, Andrew McCabe was forced out as deputy director of the FBI, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release a secret memo alleging illegal surveillance by the FBI and the Department of Justice, and Democrats learned for the first time the depth of GOP-led inquiries into corruption within those agencies.

It was a series of dramatic developments that some political pundits say marks a turning point in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

"[Monday] was a big day for some people who put party over country," Walter Schaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said in a tweet Monday night. "It was one of the darker days of the past 40 years for democracy."

RELATED: Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci

Investigative journalist Carl Bernstein, who helped uncover the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, said in an interview on CNN that we may look back on this day as the "Monday night slaughter of the administration of justice and our institutions of justice in the United States."

The secret memo

Republicans believe those concerns are exaggerated. For weeks, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have called for the release of a classified memo written by the committee's chairman Rep. Devin Nunes and his aides, which allegedly outlines evidence of bias in the FBI against President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

On Monday, the committee's Republicans voted to release the memo, clearing a key bureaucratic hurdle that makes the document's release all the more likely, pending Trump's approval.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a letter to Nunes last week that it would be "extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly" without first giving the FBI and the DOJ the chance to review it for the possible redaction of classified information and to correct any inconsistencies.

On Sunday, Nunes finally gave FBI Director Christopher Wray that chance. Top officials at the DOJ have not yet met with Nunes to view the memo.

McCabe forced out

A day after Wray's meeting with Nunes, McCabe announced he was leaving the FBI. The New York Times reported that Wray had expressed concerns about a soon-to-be-released DOJ inspector general report.

That report is expected to criticize aspects of the FBI's handling of its investigations into Hillary Clinton's emails and the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia, The Times noted.

Republicans, who have intensified their scrutiny over the integrity of the FBI and the DOJ in recent weeks, insist they are right to be concerned about possible corruption within top law enforcement ranks.

"There's a very legitimate issue here as to whether or not American civil liberties issues were violated," House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a press conference Tuesday, referring to the allegations of illegal surveillance by the FBI and the DOJ outlined in the secret memo. Ryan also said "there may have been malfeasance" within the FBI.

Trump has led the charge in attacking McCabe since the firing of former FBI director James Comey. He has repeatedly called McCabe's integrity into question, suggesting the FBI's second-in-command let Clinton off the hook in the bureau's 2016 email investigation because of his own political biases.

Democrats fire back

The Democrats, meanwhile, have provided a memo of their own to House members that counters Republicans' claims of anti-Trump bias and corruption within the justice apparatus.

Amid Monday's revelations, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, slammed the Republicans' decision to publicly release their memo.

Schiff said the FBI and the DOJ didn't have a chance to review the contents of the memo, even though the FBI's head met with Nunes over the weekend to do just that.

Schiff also told reporters that Republicans had opened an investigation into the FBI and the DOJ, which he had learned about for the first time on Monday, according to CBS News.

Republicans shot back, arguing that Schiff mischaracterized what they said, and that any investigation into the FBI's conduct is part of the larger probe into Russian meddling and the 2016 election.

Also on Monday, the Trump administration announced it would not seek to impose new sanctions against Kremlin operatives for meddling, which Trump has publicly expressed doubt about, instead viewing the Russia investigations as a domestic attempt to delegitimize his presidency.

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SEE ALSO: The craziest day in the Russia saga in months has people freaking out that Mueller's whole investigation could unravel

DON'T MISS: House Intel Committee Republicans vote to release secret memo in a move the DOJ said would be 'extraordinarily reckless'

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