THE DEEP STATE HAS STEPPED ON THE TRUMP LAND MINE
After the 2016 election, the so-called deep state was confident that it had the power easily to either stop, remove, or delegitimize the outlier Donald Trump and his presidency.
Give it credit, the Washington apparat quite imaginatively pulled out all the stops: implanting Obama holdover appointees all over the Trump executive branch; filing lawsuits and judge shopping; organizing the Resistance; pursuing impeachment writs; warping the FISA courts; weaponizing the DOJ and FBI; attempting to disrupt the Electoral College; angling for enactment of the 25th Amendment or the emoluments clause; and unleashing Hollywood celebrities, Silicon Valley, and many in Wall Street to suffocate the Trump presidency in its infancy.
But now the administrative state’s multifaceted efforts are starting to unwind, and perhaps even boomerang, on the perpetrators.
If a federal judge should end up throwing out most of the indictments of Paul Manafort on the rationale that they have nothing much to do with the original mandate of the special counsel’s office, or if Michael Flynn’s confession to giving false statements is withdrawn successfully because the FBI politicized its investigation and FISA courts were misled in approving the surveillance of Flynn, then the Mueller investigation will implode.
Indeed, the Mueller investigation would likely lose so much public support that the Department of Justice could probably dismiss it with impunity. So, in an ironic sense, Mueller’s overreach might well end once and for all the absurdities of the special counsel/prosecutor law that for nearly half a century has plagued the nation.
Until recently, deep-state apparatchiks such as John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe seemed immune from accountability after lying either to Congress or to federal authorities. In a perverse sort of way, the more Robert Mueller plays the role of the obsessed but impotent Inspector Javert, the more he demonstrates that there is no Russian-Trump collusion.
Meanwhile, he is establishing precedents that those whom he exempts from his own zeal will inevitably have to account for their own lawbreaking. One cannot justifiably hound Michael Flynn for supposedly misleading FBI agents, when agency investigators were told by Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills that they had known nothing about Hillary Clinton’s private server during her tenure as secretary of state — despite evidence that they themselves had communicated over it (as had the former president of the United States).
In his increasing desperation, Mueller may manage to finish off the declining reputation of FBI’s Washington office to the degree that there is not much left of it after the work of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok. And he may only fuel more criminal complaints against deep-state bureaucrats who worked at the FBI and the DOJ.
In truth, the multiplex world of the establishment is crumbling in a variety of arenas, from entertainment to the workplace.
Certainly, the NFL is both bleeding viewers and now seen as an ancillary of the progressive movement. The sports channel ESPN is losing its audience that is tired of being lectured about its supposed ethical shortcomings instead of being enlightened about three-point shots and no-hitters.
The century-old White House Correspondents’ Dinner is going the way of the 90-year-old Oscars: It’s an increasingly incestuous night of progressive virtue-signaling, crudity, and mediocrity that permanently turned off millions of former viewers. Americans can forgive a lot of shortcomings in their entertainers; boredom is not one of them.
Between the Me Too movement and the Russian-collusion hysteria, not much remains of the reputations of Hollywood and the media. When, fairly or not, Tom Brokaw is lumped into the ranks of Mark Halpern, Dustin Hoffman, Garrison Keillor, Larry King, Matt Lauer, Ryan Lizza, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and a host of others, there is really not much left of the old power brokers.
Once upon a time, Americans assumed that a Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer, Dan Rather, or Charlie Rose were their go-tos for ethical and sober journalism. Again, justly or not, that norm no longer holds. NBC and CNN, which have long routinely parodied Fox News, are far less likely than Fox to permit ideological and political diversity on the air.
Silicon Valley likewise has lost its luster. Once upon a time, America loved a hip Steve Jobs, decked out in black, fiddling with a new Apple gadget on stage in front of an entranced televised audience of millions. Jobs appeared as a brilliant and typically American entrepreneur, not a partisan talking down to hoi polloi.
Things have radically changed since then. The reputation of Big Tech is one of hyper-partisan politics, data miners, snoops, Bowdlerizers and censors, monopolists, progressive multibillionaires, and adolescents in arrested development who exempt themselves from the consequences of what their ideologies inflict on others.
In Wizard of Oz fashion, it’s as if the public is no longer frightened of the omnipotent imperial faces on their screens — once it drew apart the high-tech curtains and exposed tiny little nerds with nasal voices furiously working levers and gears to project deceptive all-powerful images.
Even a four-trillion-dollar industry can take only so many scandals like those at Theranos, Facebook data mining, deliberately slowed-down iPhones, fatally texting drivers, and Mark Zuckerbergs.
Donald Trump proved to be a catalyst for much of the implosion of the deep state. Land mines require careful handling. Only arrogant naïfs think that they can rush in, grab them, and carelessly and safely toss them away — clueless that they themselves are exposed as reckless moments before they blow themselves up.
If the deep state really wanted to dismantle and disarm Donald Trump, it would have been wise first to carefully learn how he was constructed and wired — and thus why he was especially dangerous to them.
Then to disarm him, elites would have had to offer superior agendas to his supporters, while engaging in reasoned debates and alternative visions — working with him when they found common and shared solutions, playing the loyal opposition when there did not.
Instead, the government, the political apparat, the media, tech, and entertainment conglomerates sought to reduce Trump to some monstrous entity deserving of hanging, stabbing, decapitation, incineration, and shooting.
It sought to indict, impeach, and remove a sitting president, as the ancien régime rushed to break federal law with assumed ethical exemption — tapping, surveilling, lying, and leaking with impunity, assured that supposedly morally superior ends justified any means necessary to achieve them.
In other words, the custodians of the status quo arrogantly grabbed up the Trump land mine and thought they could easily toss it away — as it has blown them sky-high.
Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.