First, let me wish all readers of New Times and its staff a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. That being said to the annoyance of the "PC police," the Republic is in peril. Recent media revelations about the corruption surrounding the investigation of Trump and his election campaign are not simply depressing, they're alarming.
In 1964, the movie Seven Days in May premiered, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, Lancaster being a highly decorated general and Douglas an earthy and patriotic colonel. Lancaster's character was planning a military coup d'état against a liberal president, and Douglas was the patriotic spoiler who discovered and exposed the plotters against the government. That plot line has been standard Hollywood fare for many decades, but what is happening in Washington today resurrects the theme in real life.
Last week, conservative media started talking about how the senior management of the Justice Department and the FBI may have conspired to sabotage the political campaign of the current president and possibly concocted a plot to remove a legitimately elected, sitting president. That should concern all of us whether you support Trump or not.
Hollywood has been obsessed with the danger of a military coup forever, but the real danger today is not from the military. Military officers have civilian control of the military embedded in their genes as do most sergeants and the troops they lead. A military coup in America is about as likely to occur as being struck by a meteor while in the shower and simultaneously winning the lottery.
What conservative media says could be occurring at the highest levels of our government today is emanating from federal law enforcement and the intelligence services. Fifty years ago, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover was notorious for covert snooping against elected officials (especially liberals) and compiling files on every aspect of their lives. Hoover purportedly used unsavory information to coerce elected officials into supporting the FBI and making the agency virtually untouchable or accountable to the public via their congressional representatives. The demise of Hoover opened a Pandora's box of scandal and seriously undermined the FBI's credibility and national standing with the public. We thought we fixed this but apparently not.
The current special counsel investigating collusion between the president's election campaign with Russia and the subsequent firing of a highly politicized FBI director was supposed to be above reproach. Instead, the senior lead special agents investigating Trump were ethically compromised from the start as many made large monetary contributions to Clinton's campaign. We also discovered that the "Trump dossier" was paid for by the Democratic Party, contracted through a former British intelligence operative who passed it through British intelligence to American agencies. When we receive reports from the British, it is considered to be information from a "trusted agent" and is not usually given the same level of vetting. Negative and highly salacious information from this dossier was leaked to the media, thereby contributing to generation of a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court warrant and may have provided the justification for initiation of the special counsel investigation of Trump and his campaign.
We've learned that these same senior agents, while investigating Clinton's illegal, private email server allowed Clinton's top aides to be interviewed together versus apart, were not placed under oath, and electronic devices (hard drives, phones, and laptops) were permitted to be destroyed without consequences. The original recommendation from FBI field investigators concluded that there was a "reasonable probability" that Clinton's emails were compromised by foreign agents, but senior FBI/Justice Department officials reduced that finding to a simple "potentially compromised." In the national security world, that is a significant change as the former characterization would warrant criminal prosecution under the espionage laws.
Last weekend, an organization that was part of Trump's transition team claimed that the special counsel surreptitiously obtained transition team emails and phone records without a warrant. Trump's legal counsel accused federal agents of violating Trump's Fourth Amendment protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures" and violating privileged communications laws.
You don't have to like Trump; you can even despise him, as he makes it easy. However, all of us should be very concerned when federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies apparently join together in a conspiracy to undermine and overthrow a duly elected president. These same agencies have thus far spurned lawfully issued subpoenas from congressional oversight committees. The danger of a coup d'état by rogue federal agencies poses the gravest threat to everyone's liberty.
We've spent millions of dollars on the investigation of Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. Thus far it has revealed an ineffective effort by disparate Russian agencies to influence American politics but no collusion with any U.S. candidate or campaign (See The Atlantic, January/February 2018 issue, "What Putin Really Wants," by Julia Ioffe).
In spite of all of this, have a Merry Christmas (eggnog helps) and remember those patriots who defend us far from home and the firefighters defending the home front. Δ
Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor firstname.lastname@example.org.