Published February 16, 2017
President Donald Trump holds a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS by Carlos Barria
TRUMP KNOCKS DOWN ‘DEEP STATE’ CLAIMS
Some American liberals have found something other than infrastructure spending and the shared hatred of the Republican leadership on which they think they might agree with President Trump: The malevolent presence of the “Deep State.”
That is not the name of the latest Matt Damon spy thriller, but rather the term for what its adherents believe is the government within the government that operates beyond the reach of the electorate.
Movies, though, can help you understand the theory. When one of Damon’s characters is hunted by murderous CIA agents or an agent played by George Clooney stumbles upon an assassination plot executed at the behest of, who else, a massive oil corporation, it’s all about the deep state.
The current screenplay being offered by some in Washington is something of a remake of a 1980s classic: The military-industrial complex orchestrated the takedown of a conscientious general, Michael Flynn, as national security adviser because Flynn was trying to bring about a new era of peaceful accord with the misunderstood Russian government.
Salon puts it the most pungently: “But this is not about whether you’re for or against Trump. It’s about whether there’s a cloak-and-dagger effort to subvert American foreign policy and ignite a new Cold War under false pretenses and spend tens of billions of dollars — that most certainly could be better spent elsewhere — to thwart a threat that doesn’t truly exist.”
You can get a similar dose over at the pro-Trump site Breitbart: “In other words, the Deep State is still actively investigating – some might say, hounding – the President. And, yes, of course, still leaking about it. So what’s going on here? How did the Deep State get to be so powerful?”
It all sounds very ominous, right? An unelected cabal within the government plotting against the duly elected leadership of the nation? And doing it whip up a fake war for fun and profit?
But nobody really cares too much about the opinions of people who think WikiLeaks is on that level and that Edward Snowden is a patriot and a hero. Cranks gonna crank.
And despite Trump’s thunder about leaks, he doesn’t actually seem to agree with the crank cases even as they take his side in the fight.
Flynn’s firing needs no Hollywood story lines to explain. The president and his aides had been warned repeatedly about the retired general’s disquieting proximity to the Kremlin. That was no small matter for an administration branded by its critics as a Putin puppet show.
But Trump, whose candidacy Flynn had helped enormously, went ahead and tapped the retired general anyway. When Flynn was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about his contacts with Putin’s government, Flynn had to go. As Trump said in his press conference today, “He didn’t tell the vice president of the United States the facts.”
That’s not the Deep State. That’s deep doo-doo on public relations.
Now, it doesn’t take Jason Bourne to figure out that the leaks that forced Trump’s hand came from Flynn’s foes and Trump’s ideological and political rivals – or, as Trump put it more bluntly today, “people probably from the Obama administration.”
But also, as Trump tweeted today, “leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years.” That’s for sure.
Even aside from Snowden, who was once heralded as a hero and for his “public service” on the right, the practice of leaking classified and sensitive material to cause political harm is nothing new.
It was a leaker turned whistleblower at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms who exposed the botched gunrunning sting at the ATF dubbed “Operation Fast & Furious” in 2011. Republicans so successfully jammed up then-Attorney General Eric Holder over the debacle that his boss at the time, President Obama, had to exert executive privilege to save him from the Hill hounds.
But maybe even more politically damaging to Obama and his party than either of those two was the leak from the FBI – quite likely the same agency from whence the damaging Flynn leaks occurred. Agency sources told Fox News less than a week before the 2016 election that there was a “very high priority” corruption investigation targeting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s family foundation.
That news, especially when coupled with the public statements from the FBI about Clinton’s use of an unsecure personal email server to transmit state secrets, did unknown damage to the Democrat’s already shaky status with voters.
It’s hard to imagine that the leakers didn’t know that, just as the Flynn leakers surely meant to do him harm.
Trump, like Obama will prosecute leakers and seek to snuff them out, probably with about as much success. One man’s leaker is another man’s conscientious objector, and there will always be perceived rewards for those who leak, even if they get caught.
But what Trump made clear in his press conference today is that he sees it for what it is: the political and ideological struggle that always buffets behind-the-scenes Washington, not a part of a vast conspiracy.
The president seemed quite content that with his team in place, the leaks will begin to dry up and he will be able to implement his agenda. The political press will be in a froth today over his attacks on them, but Trump’s stand against conspiracy theorizing may be the biggest news out of today’s event.
THE RULEBOOK: THERE’S ALMOST AN ART TO IT…
“War, like most other things, is a science to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by perserverance, by time, and by practice.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America
WASHINGTON — A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as “deep states,” undermine and coerce elected governments.
So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state?
Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real — and disturbing.
Though leaks can be a normal and healthy check on a president’s power, what’s happening now extends much further. The United States, those experts warn, risks developing an entrenched culture of conflict between the president and his own bureaucracy.
Issandr El Amrani, an analyst who has written on Egypt’s deep state, said he was concerned by the parallels, though the United States has not reached authoritarian extremes.