Trump and the deep state

Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore

Trump and his defenders have claimed that he is the victim of a gigantic conspiracy by the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to fabricate a fictional event called Russiagate in order to undermine his administration.

This sort of controversy is not new. In the 1950s, the witch-hunting Senator Joe McCarthy and his chief counsel Roy Cohn charged that the CIA and the U.S. Army had been subverted by communists. (Cohn would later become Trump’s lawyer and mentor). In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon asked the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in.

In 2003, as the Iraq War was being launched by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, neoconservative author Laurie Mylroie wrote a book entitled Bush vs. The Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror. In it, according to her publishers, Mylroie described, “how forces within the CIA and the State Department have conspired to discredit crucial intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s regime, from his links to al-Qaeda to his development of chemical, biological, and nuclear weaponry [and] potential Iraq involvement in the fall 2001 anthrax attacks.” Mylroie also chargd that Saddam was behind both the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.

All of those charges against Saddam were false, according to investigative reporters as well as U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. However, she was correct in her allegation that the CIA tried to discredit Bush’s and Cheney’s claims that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons. Trump’s defenders claim the cabal trying to overthrow him is the “deep state.” It is an old term used by writers across the political spectrum but it has previously been discussed in marginal circles.

Perhaps the most intelligent analysis of the subject is an article by historian Greg Grandin in The Nation entitled “What is the deep state?” (

In the current context, Grandin notes that the term has “three overlapping understandings”: 1) the military-industrial complex and the intelligence agencies, 2) private corporate power (especially finance, fossil fuels and the arms trade) and 3) civil service employees of the federal government’s many administrative agencies.

However, he argues that “…even if we take the ‘deep state’ as a valid concept, surely it’s not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic… Big Oil and Wall Street might want deregulation and an opening to Russia. The euphemistically titled ‘intelligence community’ wants a ramped-up war footing. High-tech wants increased trade. Trump, who presents as pure id wrapped in ambition motivated by appetite, wants it all — which makes him both potentially useful and inherently unstable, simultaneously a product and target of the deep state. In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote ‘the conception of the power elite and of its unity rests upon the corresponding developments and the coincidence of interests among economic, political, and military organizations.’ If nothing else, the ‘Trump v. Deep State’ framings show that unity is long gone.”

Jefferson Morley, a longtime Washington investigative reporter, defines the “deep state” as “the realm of politics and war shaped by secret intelligence agencies that act beyond the reach of democratic institutions.”

He has a rather cynical view of the right-wing outrage about the Trump investigations. He says, “The president’s embattled defenders demonize the CIA as a secretive law-breaking organization, but seem unconcerned about the verifiable harm it actually does in the world (such as torture, arms trafficking, drone warfare and regime change). Nor do Trump stalwarts commend the intelligence community for the good things it does (counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counterproliferation). No, the CIA is the enemy because of its intellectual sophistication and lack of slavish loyalty to the president.”

Morley edits a news blog called The Deep State ( Recently there have been stories about CIA-backed Afghan paramilitaries committing war crimes, former spies urging CIA Director Gina Haspel to protect the Ukraine whistleblower and Turkish intelligence having a “discreet relationship” with the Islamic State. Morley also provides a guide to the “Top World Intelligence Agencies.”

There are some articles on Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious mercenary firm called Blackwater. During the Iraq War in 2007, he was disgraced when trigger-happy Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on a group of civilians in downtown Baghdad and 17 people were killed.

Now Prince has experienced an unexpected comeback with the rise of Trump. Prince wants to replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan with mercenaries. He is obsessed with the privatization of government security operations. For years, Dick Cheney has supported him in this endeavor. This spring, the House Intelligence Committee sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department for Prince. House Democrats are accusing Prince of lying to Congress during his November 2017 testimony before the Committee, when he described a meeting in the Seychelles with a Putin-linked Russian banker before Trump’s inauguration as just a chance encounter. According to the Mueller Report, this meeting was an attempt to establish a back channel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia, and may have been arranged by the Trump team.

Trump is almost certainly the most dangerous and lawless president in our history. The impeachment hearings are beginning but Congress doesn’t have the time to fully investigate him.  

This opinion does not necessarily represent the views of Boulder Weekly.

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