CNN political analyst Brian Karem on Thursday described the debate over whether to release a Republican-written classified memo critical of the FBI and the Justice Department as a "tipping point for our democracy," warning the document's release may lead the country to be ruled by "demagoguery and despotism."
In a CNN segment flagged by NewsBusters, host Brooke Baldwin introduced Karem by telling him that, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) is downplaying the memo, President Donald Trump wants to use it help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
"And you're hearing that from the F.B.I.," Karem responded. "That is the most disingenuous piece of verbiage I've heard today."
Karem then raised the stakes of the matter, saying the memo's release threatens American democracy.
"This is a tipping point for our democracy," he said. "Are we going to be a democracy after today, or is this going to be demagoguery and despotism?"
The memo in question—a four-page document penned by Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of misusing their authority to surveil former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, according to reports.
The Justice Department has said it does not want lawmakers to publicize the memo, arguing it may expose sensitive intelligence sources and methods, although the House Intelligence Committee on Monday voted along party lines to allow the memo's release—giving Trump five days to decide whether to release it to the public. Trump is expected to allow its release.
Democrats have tried to prevent Republicans from releasing the memo, which may provide fuel for critics of the Russia investigation.
Karem connected what he described as the memo's threat to democracy to a lack of press access to the White House.
"He [Trump] talks about transparency and this is an administration that hasn't had a solo press conference in a year. They haven't had a press briefing in the last week and a half. They don't talk to the press," he said, adding that journalists have to go to the South Lawn to ask questions.
"This is simply and nothing else but a power play, a demagogue pushing back against the Democratic process," Karem said. "This is a mafia boss gone mad."