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Donald Trump’s ‘deep state’

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Donald Trump’s ‘deep state’

Much of the book charts the history of congressional oversight over the CIA and the FBI, beginning, in 1975, with the committee chaired by Senator Frank Church

President Trump Participates in a Bilateral Meeting with..

Fred Kapla | NYT Last Updated at April 26, 2020 23:58 IST

book review

VIDEO PUBLISHED: 16. MAY 2020 / President Donald Trump Finally Succeeds In Corrupting DOJ, U.S. Intelligence | Rachel Maddow

David Rohde, executive editor of The New Yorker web site, explains why Donald Trump has succeeded in destroying post-Watergate norms intended to prevent the politicization of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Aired on 5/15/2020.

IN DEEP: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth About America’s “Deep State”

The spectre of a “deep state” has served as a useful scapegoat in Donald Trump’s presidency, the alleged locus of resistance to his reign. Early on in his book In Deep, David Rohde, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, asks “whether a ‘deep state’ exists in America.” At the start of his final chapter, he concludes, “There is no ‘deep state.’” But in the intervening pages, he raises more questions than he answers.He begins with a brisk history of the phrase, which is rooted in Egypt and Turkey, where the military ran everything and nipped the slightest buds of democratic reform. The former Berkeley professor Peter Dale Scott first applied it to American military and intelligence elites, in a book entitled The Road to 9/11. The alt-right adopted it in December 2016, after an anonymous author, using the pen name Virgil, wrote “The Deep State vs Donald Trump,” a 4,000-word article in Breitbart News, then edited by Steve Bannon, who was also Trump’s chief strategist.Virgil broadened the term to encompass “the complex of bureaucrats, technocrats and plutocrats that likes things just the way they are” — including the “highly politicised” intelligence agencies and the “liberal apparatchiks” installed by President Barack Obama — who were now all engaged in “a great power struggle” with the newly elected president. himself first invoked the term, Mr Rohde reports, on June 16, 2017. He was retweeting a post by Sean Hannity, his favourite Fox News host, who had hawked a segment on his show that night on the ties between the “deep state” and the news media.

IN DEEP: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth About America’s “Deep State” Author: David Rohde Publisher: W W Norton & Company Price: $30 Pages: 352

Did Messrs Trump and Bannon — does anyone in power — believe this conspiracy theory? Mr Rohde goes back and forth on the question. He notes in passing (more detail would have been welcome) that Mr Bannon fed the idea to Mr Trump as a way of getting him to “distrust the advice of career government offic­ials who opposed Bannon’s policy goals.” Meanwhile, Mr Trump soon realised its power as a narrative device, invoking it last year at least 23 times.At times, Mr Rohde suggests there is a deep state, though he calls it “institutional government,” a term he chose “for its relative neutrality.” Its denizens don’t form “an organised plot,” but they do exhibit “bias, caution and turf consciousness.” And, he writes, “the Justice Department and the and senior intelligence officials proved to be the most formidable resistance” the administration would encounter from within the federal government, initiating a “struggle for power that would define Trump’s presidency.”So, is there a deep state, though one with a more neutral name and less cabalistic motives than the conspiracy theorists portray?Much of the book charts the history of congressional oversight over the CIA and the FBI, beginning, in 1975, with the committee chaired by Senator Frank Church. Its hearings and subsequent report unveiled a long and gruesome string of assassinations, wiretaps and assorted skulduggery — after which Congress passed laws restricting these practices.Mr Rohde appraises subsequent presidents, after Richard Nixon, by how faithfully they held to these Church-era reforms.He seems to suggest, though he never outright claims, that the reforms muzzled what at least used to be a deep state. However, as countless have documented, the CIA, far from being a “rogue elephant” (as Church described it), was, for the most part, executing the top-secret orders of the presidents it served.Some of the book’s most fascinating passages trace the rise of William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, from his time as a CIA intern to clerking for a federal judge who ruled that Nixon had no obligation to turn over the White House tapes (a position that the Supreme Court would overrule unanimously), to serving as a legal assistant in Ronald Reagan’s White House — all of which hardened his commitment to a doctrine of presidential power and downgrading the role of Congress. Mr Rohde highlights Barr’s activism, along with a small group of other conservative lawyers, in the Federalist Society and the Catholic Information Centre, which now exercise enormous influence. (The five conservative Supreme Court justices have all been members of the Federalist Society, whose recommendations have also shaped Mr Trump’s selections of lower-court judges.)The tale of these groups is worth an entire book. But are they part of a new “deep state”? Mr Rohde declares that they are, tossing in Trump’s relationship with Rudy Giuliani and Sean Hannity to boot. At the end of the book, he concludes, “Trump is creating a parallel, shadow government filled with like-minded loyalists, without transparency, democratic norms or public processes — a ‘deep state’ of its own.” It’s a clever punchline, but it’s wrong. Mr Trump and his team are the opposite of a deep state. And, unlike a deep state (whether mythological or real), after Mr Trump leaves office they’ll be swept away.


©2020 The New York Times News Service

First Published: Sun, April 26 2020. 23:53 IST
SOURCE https://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/donald-trump-s-deep-state-120042601149_1.html
The CIA, the FBI and the myth of America’s Deep State The agencies don’t plot presidential coups — but few heroes emerge in David Rohde’s study ‘In Deep’ Donald Trump, accompanied by US attorney-general William Barr
https://www.ft.com/content/8f3bda9e-8adb-11ea-a01c-a28a3e3fbd33
The CIA, the FBI and the myth of America’s Deep State The agencies don’t plot presidential coups — but few heroes emerge in David Rohde’s study ‘In Deep’ Donald Trump, accompanied by US attorney-general William Barr, who has authorised the declassification of details of how the intelligence services investigated Trump’s electoral campaign © New York Times / Redux / eyevine Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Peter Spiegel MAY 5 2020Print this page50 The conviction that pointy-headed intellectuals in the US national security establishment are covertly imposing their worldview on American foreign policy hardly originated with the Trump White House. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade in the 1950s was largely premised on the same paranoia about some establishment “deep state”. Similar views were voiced — with lesser degrees of conspiratorial conviction — by the Reagan and Nixon administrations. And as national security correspondent David Rohde notes in his new book on presidential battles with the US security services, such fears are not the exclusive province of the political right. The idea of a military-industrial complex secretly running US foreign policy outside the prying eyes of right-thinking Americans was a standard trope of the left for much of the Vietnam war era, one that hasn’t altogether disappeared from parts of the Democratic party. But the accusation that a “deep state” within the permanent government is plotting to oust Donald Trump, as the president and some of his supporters in the partisan media occasionally claim, takes such internecine clashes to a level that has shocked even veterans of Washington’s occasionally brutal bureaucratic warfare. Donald Trump’s accusation that a ‘deep state’ within the permanent government is plotting to oust him takes such internecine clashes to a level that has shocked even veterans of Washington’s occasionally brutal bureaucratic warfare Although he does not make the connection, Rohde’s portrayal of Trump in In Deep is far more McCarthy than Reagan or Nixon, complete with a protagonist convinced that subversives lurk under every rock in Langley and Foggy Bottom, homes to the CIA and the state department. Rohde views the president’s hostility to the FBI and CIA as a dangerous escalation even from the conflicts between the national security bureaucracy and America’s political leadership that produced Washington’s most notorious scandals of the past half century, from Iran-Contra to Edward Snowden. “The long history of abuse by the FBI and CIA should not be ignored,” he writes. “But there is no evidence of a widespread, politically motivated ‘coup’. President Trump, as he often does, is exaggerating.” The reason Rohde skips the Red Scare comparisons is that he chooses to start his account with a far less examined event: the 1976 Senate investigation into historic CIA abuses led by Idaho Democrat Frank Church. As Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s chief foreign policy adviser, once noted, even the paranoid can have real enemies. McCarthy’s fears led to horrible excesses, but state department official Alger Hiss was in all likelihood a Soviet spy. The left’s paranoia may have been overwrought, but there had been decades of excesses by an unchecked CIA — abuses which were first exposed by Church’s inquiry. Former CIA director Richard Helms (right) talks with Senator Frank Church, who chaired the 1975 congressional committee on intelligence activities © Bettmann Archive To Rohde, the importance of the Church committee is not so much what it uncovered — unauthorised wiretapping of high-ranking US politicians, infiltration of peaceful domestic political groups, “black bag jobs” that broke into private homes to plant incriminating evidence — as the reforms it spawned. Many of the norms Trump now flouts, Rohde argues, flowed from Church: justice department independence, congressional oversight, independent counsels, inspectors-general. It is an interesting and salient point. It is not, as Rohde promises in his subtitle, the “truth about America’s ‘deep state’.” Although he insists at the start that “the institutional government is real”, the author sheepishly admits in his concluding chapter that the truth about America’s “deep state” is that it does not exist, or at least not in the sense that the phrase was first coined, describing the Turkish military’s long-running hold on the state. The federal bureaucracy guards turf, connives for funding, and fights for political relevance, Rodhe argues. It does not plot coups — at least not at home — or systematically work to undermine presidential policies. In Deep is more a tour of the decades-long effort to square that most unsquareable of democratic challenges: how to run clandestine intelligence and security agencies in a system that is ostensibly accountable to the people. But even here, the author provides little clarity. Rohde extols the Church reforms, but then notes they were quickly flouted, with almost no legal consequence, by William Casey, Reagan’s director of central intelligence who orchestrated the illegal covert arming of rightwing Nicaraguan guerrillas in what eventually became the Iran-Contra affair. He wags his finger at the abuse of the system by Reagan appointees in Iran-Contra, but then writes how it was career law enforcement officials who botched the assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, during the Clinton administration. Then there’s 9/11, where the security services failed to stop the attacks because they didn’t share intelligence — but failed again by overly centralising unchecked power after the attacks. In the end, there seems to be no system that can check the failings of the CIA and FBI. Those supposed to play that role, including Congress, independent counsels and the press, have all seen their power diminished, and then debased by President Trump. The only heroes of In Deep are the apolitical men (and they are all men) who balanced the democratic imperative to be accountable to political leaders with the national security necessity to operate free of political constraints: William Webster, Jimmy Carter’s FBI director who took the helm of the CIA for Ronald Reagan after Iran-Contra, and Edward Levi, Gerald Ford’s attorney-general. It is, in the end, an unsatisfactory conclusion, one that nostalgically pines for some Ivy League knight to rescue a system now mired in dysfunction. Best books of the week The FT’s pick of the most essential recent reading At a time when Trump and his acolytes are at war with yet another group of government professionals — the federal health agencies — a deeply researched look at how the permanent bureaucracy operates in the age of an increasingly imperial presidency would be of great value. But this is not that book. Its biggest contribution to the debate over abuse of government authority are a handful of thumbnail biographies, most importantly that of William Barr, who first appears as a CIA recruit in the mid-1970s and reappears, Zelig-like, as a briefer for George HW Bush when he was nominated CIA director; as Bush’s attorney-general in the 1990s; and again as attorney-general under Trump. Rather than the corporate lawyer and establishment Republican many once considered him, Barr emerges as a cultural warrior of the religious right and an early and vigorous advocate of unchecked presidential power. “What the two men have in common is a willingness to traffic in fear and aggrievement,” Rohde says of the Barr-Trump axis. It is undoubtedly a potent combination. It is also one that could prove explosive for a nation headed to the polls in the midst of an economic and health catastrophe. In Deep: The FBI, the CIA and the Truth About America’s ‘Deep State’, by David Rohde, WW Norton RRP$30, 352 pages Peter Spiegel is the FT’s US managing editor Join our online book group on Facebook at FT Books Café.
SOURCE https://www.ft.com/content/8f3bda9e-8adb-11ea-a01c-a28a3e3fbd33
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