The Deeper The State, The Harder The Crackdown

When last we surveyed presidential/Deep State relations, elements of the intelligence community appeared to have the upper hand. The Trump administration has been fighting back, using the levers of power at its disposal to throttle the flow of unflattering revelations:

Rumors have ricocheted among national security officials and journalists in recent weeks that Trump- or GOP-related operatives have hired private eyes to try and intimidate reporters, or run rogue operations to find their sources. Some U.S. officials voiced concern to POLITICO that the White House could be seeking amenable employees in different agencies to do its bidding, effectively sanctioning its own, parallel — and informal — intimidation measures.

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Sixty-Nine)

Your Memorial Day Weekend Sendoff

Two bits of business before you start thinking about whether you really want to pay extra for kosher hot dogs and craft beers when most of the people coming to the BBQ are your husband’s boring coworkers:

Per the Observer,

This week’s town hall event, which was broadcast to agency facilities worldwide, was therefore met with surprise and anticipation by the NSA workforce, and Rogers did not disappoint. I have spoken with several NSA officials who witnessed the director’s talk and I’m reporting their firsthand accounts, which corroborate each other, on condition of anonymity.

In his town hall talk, Rogers reportedly admitted that President Trump asked him to discredit the FBI and James Comey, which the admiral flatly refused to do. As Rogers explained, he informed the commander in chief, “I know you won’t like it, but I have to tell what I have seen”—a probable reference to specific intelligence establishing collusion between the Kremlin and Team Trump.

Rogers then added that such SIGINT exists, and it is damning. He stated, “There is no question that we [meaning NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.” Although Rogers did not cite the specific intelligence he was referring to, agency officials with direct knowledge have informed me that DIRNSA was obviously referring to a series of SIGINT reports from 2016 based on intercepts of communications between known Russian intelligence officials and key members of Trump’s campaign, in which they discussed methods of damaging Hillary Clinton.

And today’s Washington Post’s cocktail hour conversation-starter alledges

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

We’re at a crucial point in the Deep State war. The initial skirmishes have passed and the Intelligence Community’s methods have grown more sophisticated. Not only must they destroy the Trump administration, they realized they have to do it in a way that doesn’t arouse strong suspicion among any but the die-hard Trumpists. The thinking may now be that the president is capable of taking himself down. Let’s call it “Operation: Give Him Enough Rope”.

The endless barage of damning evidence seems to give the IC the upper hand. Some of the allegations considered fit to print, perhaps even all of them, may be true. Events have excellerated; now the stories don’t need quite the same push as they used to. Just because the chatter has been redirected doesn’t mean the dangers of a cryptocracatic takeover have abated, however.

Have a great weekend?

Feint-ing Spells

In the haunted world of state-sanctioned spookery, parsing truth from fiction isn’t always an easy task. Zzyzz, Whiteside and our newest contributor ThePiedSpicer consider whether we should be taking America’s Intelligence Community at their word and if everything is a feint.

Zzyzx: Parts of the Intelligence Community have done little to hide their antipathy for Trump since the Summer of 2016. It’s unsettling to see the spooks come out of the shadows. I harbor suspicions about their intentions.

Which leads me to at least ask the question: Is Russia a feint? By which I mean, is the Deep State using Russophobia to achieve its own ends to unseat Donald Trump, who for his part has shown unprecedented animosity towards the IC? Some, like T.A. Frank, think so. WikiLeak’s Vault 7 infodump seems to point to such a conclusion, claiming that the CIA was actually behind the DNC hacks and they tried to pin it on Russia. And for the Democratic establishment, who would like to latch on any excuse for losses across the board in 2016 other than their own failures, Russia makes an easy target. Do you buy into the idea that the Deep State is wagging the dog here?

Whiteside: Why can’t it be both? There’s plenty of evidence to say that the Deep State is angry with Trump and that their goal is to hurt him but it’s pretty obvious they don’t need to work hard to do that, since Trump’s White House is so thoroughly corrupt. The Deep State’s claim that they’d like to see Trump die in prison comes to mind.

Zzyzx: So it’s clear, maybe as open and clear as the Deep State’s ever been, that they find the entire Trump presidency to be objectionable (We do too, but for vastly different reasons. This is really a strange bedfellows sort of situation). There’s also an odd chain of events over the last few weeks that seems to strain the credulity of a centrist liberal argument like Frank’s that this is only smoke an mirrors. The weekend before last it was reported that Trump/Bannon were about to strike back at the Deep State. By Wednesday, WikiLeaks has released that trove of documents that cast the CIA in an especially bad light (as opposed to their usual bad light, that involves a sordid history of trying to overthrow democratically elected governments in other countries, leading to massive bloodshed and right wing dictatorships). I mentioned earlier how Vault 7 makes it look like the CIA was behind the so-called Russian hacking all along, but doesn’t WikiLeaks have well-documented ties to the Russian government? Couldn’t this claim itself be the feint?

ThePiedSpicer: Absolutely. WikiLeaks has been comprised for a while, but this is just getting ridiculous. How many more coincidences can their possibly be?

Whiteside: Trump could be no more corrupt than any other president we have elected. There were definitely things that came out of the Obama White House that made you say ‘hmmmmm’ and wonder who was on the take. It’s quite possible that every administration is as thoroughly compromised as this one, but because of his actions towards the Deep State they have decided to not look the other way this time. I think WikiLeaks’ latest release feels like it specifically avoided targeting the presidency. Where Snowden’s leaks and the earlier WikiLeaks material from diplomatic cables seemed targeted towards their parent governments, it seems odd that the Vault 7 stuff was being presented as separate from the Trump admin rather than an ongoing policy of the United States government stretching back through the last three presidencies.

Zzyzx: I noticed that as well. I think the assumption — and I think it’s the correct assumption — is that most people who read the news stories won’t think of what they’ve read in the greater context, if they’re even aware of it. They’ll skim the article or just read the headline, say “Aha!” Even if they don’t personally like Trump or his politics, it will have undermined the Deep State in the eyes of the public just a bit.

Late last week, Trump asked 46 US Attorneys appointed under Obama to resign. US Attorney Preet Bharara refused to resign, and was fired as a result. It’s been rightly pointed out that other presidents have done the same, but as with all things Trump, the timing seems suspect.

ThePiedSpicer: My problem with the firing is that Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, was in the middle of investigating the Trump Organization. Trump removing him follows a pattern. Two Attorney Generals in two states were investigating Trump University. Donnie made a donation to both campaigns, and both investigations were dropped. It leads me to believe that Trump initially promised Bharara the opportunity to stay on because he believed (for some reason) that the attorney would play ball. After it became clear he wouldn’t, down came the axe.

Whiteside: I think ThePiedSpicer’s point about WikiLeaks applies here as well. We’re well beyond the point where coincidences can be ignored. There’s too much smoke, there’s too much fire.

ThePiedSpicer: As for the Deep State, I am wary of making large overriding connections because without clear evidence, it is only speculation and more so than my last statement. That being said, I tend to lean towards that the Russian hacks happened like the IC has been telling us. This is not to say that Trump’s people didn’t have contact (it would lend credence to the argument about why the RNC emerged relatively unscathed). More likely, in my opinion, Trump and his people are out to protect their own, largely monetary, interests. These interests happen to go against the grain of the upper brass of the IC. Hence the war. I think there’s a strong argument that Trump’s people have been involved with Russian sources for while. But the theory that the Deep State pulled off last year’s hacks doesn’t hold much water. That’s not to say they didn’t or can’t happen, but let’s see if something besides a WikiLeaks dump floats to the surface.

Zzyzx: Right. It’s important to not think of the Deep State as a monolith, but as a series of competing agencies with different agendas and counter-agendas, often within the same building. And remember, the president and his functionaries have some control over who’s in and out. Unlike the State Department or DoJ, purges could already be happening and not being reported on.

ThePiedSpicer: At the very least, given the revelation that Trump has been appointing eyes and ears to every department he can, it points to imminent purges.

Zzyzx: It does increasingly look like a political game of whack-a-mole, with Donny furiously slamming his rubber mallet on anything that looks like it could send him to jail.

Any final thoughts?

ThePiedSpicer: I would just like to reiterate what you said – it’s probably safer to think about the Deep State as a non-monolithic entity and that the principle should probably be applied to our system of government as a whole and our media.

Zzyzx: Yeah. That doesn’t mean we’re not all justified in our concern about what’s going on, but things are rarely simple.

Except lizard people. Donald Trump is 100% a reptilian preparing earth for its human harvest.

Whiteside: All hail the lizards.

(Year Zero/Day Fifty-Three)

The (Deep) State Of Things

Reading through another day of headlines, it occurs to me Donald Trump has now lied to the American people about Russia multiple times, and he’s made both Mike Pence and Sean Spicer lie for him.

We’re in uncharted territory here. The Intelligence Community (aka Deep State) have been deliberately withholding information from Trump for fear of what he’ll do with it. An anonymous Pentagon admitted they assume the Kremlin has eyes and ears in the SITROOM. And Trump keeps picking fights with the spooks for all to see. When has an American president ever been publicly at war with his own spies?

There’s no way when the dam bursts that they get through this unscathed.  Even Russia is starting to wonder what will happen to their little pet. The outgoing president lied to the American people about Russian ties, the incoming president will have lied to the American people about Russian ties.

It seems like these late-in-the-day headlines are intended (either by design of the intelligence community or the Fourth Estate) to give the administration an opportunity to further duck, dodge and falsify so that no one on his team can claim they were unaware of what was happening. Or maybe it takes writers most of the morning to sober up from the night before. Especially in the current media climate.

Yesterday morning, the administration claimed that outside of Michael Flynn, there had been no contact with Russian intelligence. By the end of the day, word was Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence. Every headline has followed that pattern. The Deep State waits for them to take a definite stand, then hits the press with selectively leaked information proving the White House lied.

Barack Obama made all the intelligence agencies share information about the Trump-Russia Dossier before he left. It makes me think he and the IC knew everything and they’re playing 4D chess. You can’t trace the leaks because they can come from everywhere. You can’t shut down the investigation because everyone has the info. Even the intelligence communities of other countries. A drawn-out production can take down the careers of as many of Trump’s guys as possible.

Every day this looks more and more like a calculated intelligence op against the American presidency with the end goal of Trump dying in jail. It’s less clear if what the Deep State is doing is a good thing. If they manage to overthrow Trump, we’ll have to deal with a government openly run by spies.