We left off yesterday with a provocative question: Has Trump really gone to war with the Deep State?
Or was he just mouthing off in Helsinki…off message…and out of control?
There are a couple more hypotheses, too…but we’ll get to them in a moment.
Off the reservation
Even some of Mr Trump’s dearest supporters seemed to think Mr Trump he has gone too far off the reservation. Newt Gingrich, for example, seemed to suggest that the president needed to edit his transcript:
‘It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately,’ he tweeted.
And here is Dan Coats, the president’s own Director of National Intelligence, sticking to the Russians-are-bad-guys trope and referring to allegations of election interference:
‘These actions are persistent, they are pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy.’
From Senator John McCain:
‘He and Putin seemed to be reading from the same script…’
And here is Indiana Representative Jim Banks:
‘I want President Trump’s diplomatic efforts to be successful, but I’ll take the word of a Hoosier over Vladimir Putin any day.’
The word he was taking was what US intelligence agencies were putting out — that is to say, the word of Deep State operatives. Their claim was that Russia hacked into US computers, specifically the systems of the Democratic National Committee, to try to influence the presidential election of 2016.
We bring the Deep State into the conversation because it may turn out to be the ‘who’ in this ‘who-dunnit’.
Regular readers will remember that the Deep State is the loose collection of special interests…government insiders…and financial elites that control the country.
Remember, too, that Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto described how all governments are taken over by the ‘foxes’ — aka the Deep State — smart, elite insiders who use the power of the state for their own purposes.
The Deep State is the major beneficiary of the Warfare State, the Welfare State, and the Police State. And if Donald J Trump really was a threat to any of them, the insiders had a better motive than the Russians for wanting to slow him down.
Besides, US intelligence agencies had much more money to work with…much more talent to draw on…and many more opportunities to get up to mischief.
That’s why some analysts believe that the mischief at the heart of the Russiagate story was more likely gotten up to by US spooks rather than foreign ones.
Two retired NSA and CIA analysts, William Binney and Ray McGovern, with a combined 63 years of experience, came forward over the weekend and made an astounding charge.
They said the hack — made by a program called ‘Guccifer’ — was almost certainly an inside job, carried out by America’s own intelligence professionals and made to look like a Russian job.
Want to know where Guccifer came from? ‘Ask the FBI,’ proposed the two intelligence experts.
In the last half-century — since Eisenhower spoke out and JFK was assassinated — no president has ever seriously challenged the Deep State.
There was one brief moment, early in the Reagan administration, when it looked as though the feds’ wings might be trimmed.
Our colleague, David Stockman — who, as President Reagan’s budget advisor, had the clippers in his hands — tells the tale in his marvellous memoir, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.
Writing on the inner workings of The Swamp, David recalls:
‘More than anything else, I was struck by the dramatic contrast between how hard and with what care, pride, and discipline the nation’s citizens worked to earn our national income and wealth on the one hand, and the feckless, inconsistent, and muddled manner in which it was shunted around the halls of Washington on the other.’
But there was never any effort to restrain the deepest elements of the Deep State — the military and the spooks.
And despite initial successes — budget and tax cuts — the insiders were soon back in control, and Stockman left Washington.
By the end of its second term, the Reagan administration had added more spending and more debt than any previous administration.
Here at the Diary, we don’t trust Hoosiers or Putin. After all, Mike Pence is from Indiana.
And when Donald Trump says, ‘I’d rather take a political risk in search of peace than risk peace in the name of politics,’ it makes sense to us.
But Deep State warmongers can’t stand peace; it endangers their supply lines. In the absence of a real enemy, huge wealth transfers to the Warfare and Police States make no sense.
Reagan got bamboozled into big ‘defence’ increases because he feared communism.
The Warfare State hawks and intelligence insiders lit up his imagination with images of Soviet hordes streaming across Europe…infesting Latin America…and rolling tanks towards Singapore.
We found out a few years later that it was all nonsense. The Soviet Union could not even hold itself together, let alone attack the world’s number one military power. Besides, communism is a self-correcting malady.
(In the late 1980s, another of our colleagues, who had been working with former CIA director William Colby, predicted that the Soviet Union would soon go out of business. He was dismissed and laughed at, not only by the mainstream media, but by Washington’s security professionals. The Soviet state collapsed a few years later.)
So what is going on? We don’t know, of course. But we’ll take some guesses.
Senator Chuck Schumer and The Washington Post wonder whether Putin has something on the US president — a kompromat.
Did he do something naughty with hookers? Does he owe the Russians a lot of money?
Anything is possible…but it is even more likely that the Deep State has something on Mr Trump, as it might have on almost everyone. So the ‘hidden-motive hypothesis’ could go either way.
And Mr Trump is no fool. He’s not really going to enter a serious, protracted war with the Deep State.
If he did, he would soon be isolated…marginalised…driven out of town…or worse.
He has already made peace with the Warfare, Welfare, and Police States. What would he gain from stirring up trouble now?
The best hypothesis is probably the most obvious one: The Helsinki meeting was just another episode in Mr Trump’s reality TV show.
The ratings were great. Nothing else matters much.