In other words: It wasn't just a piece of the puzzle; it was the main substantiation of the Nunes memo's central claim.
But there was something weird about how the Nunes memo described McCabe's comments: It paraphrased them, rather than quoting him. So we were left to rely upon the memo's interpretation (from Republicans) of McCabe's words in a closed-door hearing, rather than being able to parse them for ourselves.
Democrats quickly claimed the paraphrase was wrong. House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said the memo “seriously mischaracterizes the testimony of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the FISA application.” Other Democrats agreed. As The Post's Philip Bump noted this weekend, Swalwell even predicted that the Democratic memo “would put into focus what exactly [McCabe] said.” And if that claim were proved wrong, the whole thing would pretty quickly implode.
Yet the Democratic memo makes only one mention of McCabe — in a section about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page's text messages. It does not tell us what he said about the Steele dossier's importance or even address the discrepancy.
Patrick Boland, a spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), noted that the memo was drafted before the Nunes memo was publicly released and said it “could not predict what mischaracterizations some would latch onto.” Boland also said some “relevant excerpts” from McCabe's testimony about how the FBI and Justice Department used the dossier were redacted because McCabe's testimony remains classified.
“In making redactions and certifying that the Democratic memo is now unclassified, the White House and Department of Justice refrained from declassifying any additional new information that otherwise remained classified as a consequence of the president’s unilateral decision, pursuant to his own authority, to declassify without redactions the entirety of the information in the Nunes memo,” Boland said.
Boland, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Swalwell's office continue to say McCabe's comments were inaccurately portrayed, with the latter saying that Swalwell “would like to see McCabe’s transcript declassified and released in order to nip this in the bud, once and for all.”
Which seems like an extremely reasonable proposal. Republicans have already paraphrased McCabe, which means there is comparatively little reason to keep his exact words classified. If he says what the GOP says he did, they should be only too happy to substantiate it. Similarly, if their paraphrase is so at odds with what McCabe said, why aren't Democrats making a bigger deal out of it? This would be a pretty easy way to undercut the entire Nunes memo. The fact that #ReleaseTheTranscript hasn't trended like #ReleaseTheMemo seems like political malpractice for the blue side.
Perhaps McCabe's comments simply weren't that clear? It also seems possible Democrats have decided that the Nunes memo didn't have the desired impact for Republicans, and they just want to move on with the whole thing.
But the fact that we still don't know the full truth about what McCabe said makes very little sense.