By Victor Davis Hanson| American Greatness
PHOTO: (Left to Right) Disgraced Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Acting DOJ Attorney Rod Rosenstein
The illegal effort to destroy the 2016 Trump campaign by Hillary Clinton campaign’s use of funds to create, disseminate among court media, and then salt among high Obama administration officials, a fabricated, opposition smear dossier failed.
So has the second special prosecutor phase of the coup to abort the Trump presidency failed.
There are many elements to what in time likely will become recognized as the greatest scandal in American political history, marking the first occasion in which U.S. government bureaucrats sought to overturn an election and to remove a sitting U.S. president.
Preparing the Battlefield
No palace coup can take place without the perception of popular anger at a president.
The deep state is by nature cowardly.
It does not move unless it feels it can disguise its subterranean efforts or that, if revealed, those efforts will be seen as popular and necessary—as expressed in tell-all book titles such as fired FBI Directors James Comey’s Higher Loyalty or in disgraced Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s psychodramatic The Threat.
In candidate and President Trump’s case that prepping of the battlefield translated into a coordinated effort among the media, political progressives and celebrities to so demonize Trump that his imminent removal likely would appear a relief to the people. Anything was justified that led to that end.
All through the 2016 campaign and during the first two years of the Trump presidency the media’s treatment, according to liberal adjudicators of press coverage, ran about 90 percent negative toward Trump—a landmark bias that continues today.
Journalists themselves consulted with the Clinton campaign to coordinate attacks.
From the Wikileaks trove, journalistic grandees such as John Harwood, Mark Leibovich, Dana Milbank, and Glenn Thrush often communicated (and even post factum were unapologetic about doing so) with John Podesta’s staff to construct various anti-Trump themes and have the Clinton campaign review or even audit them in advance.
Some contract “journalists” apparently were paid directly by Fusion GPS—created by former reporters Glen Simpson of the Wall Street Journal and Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post—to spread lurid stories from the dossier.
Others more refined like Christiane Amanpour and James Rutenberg had argued for a new journalistic ethos that partisan coverage was certainly justified in the age of Trump, given his assumed existential threat to The Truth.
Or as Rutenberg put it in 2016: “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.
That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, non-opinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.
But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?”
I suppose Rutenberg never considered that half the country might have considered the Hillary Clinton presidency “potentially dangerous,” and yet did not expect the evening news, in 90 percent of its coverage, to reflect such suspicions.
The Democratic National Committee’s appendages often helped to massage CNN news coverage—such as Donna Brazile’s primary debate tip-off to the Clinton campaign or CNN’s consultation with the DNC about forming talking points for a scheduled Trump interview.
So-called “bombshell,” “watershed,” “turning-point,” and “walls closing in” fake news aired in 24-hour news bulletin cycles.
The media went from fabrications about Trump’s supposed removal of the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office, to the mythologies in the Steele dossier, to lies about the Trump Tower meeting, to assurances that Michael Cohen would testify to Trump’s suborning perjury, and on and on.
CNN soon proved that it is no longer a news organization at all—as reporters like Gloria Borger, Chris Cuomo, Eric Lichtblau, Manu Raju, Brian Rokus, Jake Tapper, Jeff Zeleny, and teams such as Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen as well as Thomas Frank, and Lex Harris all trafficked in false rumors and unproven gossip detrimental to Trump, while hosts and guest hosts such as Reza Aslan, the late Anthony Bourdain, and Anderson Cooper stooped to obscenity and grossness to attack Trump.
Both politicos and celebrities tried to drive Trump’s numbers down to facilitate some sort of popular ratification for his removal.
Hollywood and the coastal corridor punditry exhausted public expressions of assassinating or injuring the president, as the likes of Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp, Robert de Niro, Peter Fonda, Kathy Griffin, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and a host of others vied rhetorically to slice apart, shoot, beat up, cage, behead, and blow up the president.
Left wing social media and mainstream journalism spread sensational lies about supposed maniacal Trump supporters in MAGA hats.
They constructed fantasies that veritable white racists were now liberated to run amuck insulting and beating up people of color as they taunted the poor and victimized minorities with vicious Trump sloganeering—even as the Covington farce and now the even more embarrassing Jussie Smollett charade evaporated without apologies from the media and progressive merchants of such hate.
At the same time, liberal attorneys, foundations, Democratic politicians, and progressive activists variously sued to overturn the election on false charges of rigged voting machines.
They sought to subvert the Electoral College.
They introduced articles of impeachment.
They sued to remove Trump under the Emoluments Clause.
They attempted to invoke the 25th Amendment. And they even resurrected the ossified Logan Act—before focusing on the appointment of a special counsel to discredit the Trump presidency. Waiting for the 2020 election was seen as too quaint.
Weaponizing the Deep State
During the 2016 election, the Obama Department of Justice warped the Clinton email scandal investigation, from Bill Clinton’s secret meeting on an airport tarmac with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to unethical immunity given to the unveracious Clinton aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, to James Comey’s convoluted predetermined treatment of “likely winner” Clinton, and to DOJ’s Bruce Ohr’s flagrant conflict of interests in relation to Fusion GPS.
About a dozen FBI and DOJ grandees have now resigned, retired, been fired, or reassigned for unethical and likely illegal behavior—and yet have not faced criminal indictments.
The reputation of the FBI as venerable agency is all but wrecked.
Its administrators variously have libeled the Trump voters, expressed hatred for Trump, talked of “insurance policies” in ending the Trump candidacy, and inserted informants into the Trump campaign.
The former Obama directors of the CIA and National Intelligence, with security clearances intact, hit the television airways as paid “consultants” and almost daily accused the sitting president of Russian collusion and treason—without cross-examination or notice that both previously had lied under oath to Congress (and did so without subsequent legal exposure), and both were likely knee-deep in the dissemination of the Steele dossier among Obama administration officials.
John Brennan’s CIA likely helped to spread the Fusion GPS dossier among elected and administrative state officials.
Some in the NSC in massive and unprecedented fashion requested the unmasking of surveilled names of Trump subordinates, and then illegally leaked them to the press.
The FISA courts, fairly or not, are now mostly discredited, given they either were willingly or naively hoodwinked by FBI and DOJ officials who submitted as chief evidence for surveillance on American citizens, an unverified dossier—without disclosure that the bought campaign hit-piece was paid for by Hillary Clinton, authored by a discredited has-been British agent, relied on murky purchased Russian sources, and used in circular fashion to seed news accounts of supposed Trump misbehavior.
The Mueller Investigation
The Crown Jewel in the coup was the appointment of special counsel Robert Muller to discover supposed 2016 Trump-Russian election collusion. Never has any special investigation been so ill-starred from its conception.
Mueller’s appointment was a result of his own friend James Comey’s bitter stunt of releasing secret, confidential and even classified memos of presidential conversations.
Acting DOJ Attorney Rod Rosenstein appointed a former colleague Mueller—although as a veteran himself of the Clinton email scandal investigations and the FISA fraudulent writ requests, Rosenstein was far more conflicted than was the recused Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mueller then packed his investigative team with lots of Clinton donors and partisans, some of whom had legally represented Clinton subordinates and even the Clinton Foundation or voiced support for anti-Trump movements.
Mueller himself and Andrew Weissmann have had a long record of investigatory and prosecutorial overreach that had on occasion resulted in government liability and court mandated federal restitution. In such polarized times, neither should have involved in such an investigation.
Two subordinate FBI investigators were caught earlier on conducting an affair over their FBI-issued cell phones, and during the election cycle they slurred the object of their subsequent investigation, ridiculed Trump voters, and bragged that Trump would never be elected. Mueller later staggered, and then hid for weeks the reasons for, their respective firings.
The team soon discovered there was no Trump-Russian 2016 election collusion—and yet went ahead to leverage Trump campaign subordinates on process crimes in hopes of finding some culpability in Trump’s past 50-year business, legal, and tax records.
The point was not to find who colluded with whom (if it had been, then Hillary Clinton would be now indicted for illegally hiring with campaign funds a foreign national to buy foreign fabrications to discredit her opponent), but to find the proper mechanism to destroy the presumed guilty Donald Trump.
The Mueller probe has now failed in that gambit of proving “collusion” (as even progressive investigative reporters and some FBI investigators had predicted), but succeeded brilliantly in two ways.
The “counterintelligence” investigation subverted two years of the Trump presidency by constant leaks that Trump soon would be indicted, jailed, disgraced, or impeached.
As a result, Trump’s stellar economic and foreign policy record would never earn fifty percent of public support.
Second, Mueller’s preemptive attacks offered an effective offensive defense for the likely felonious behavior of John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and a host of others.
While the Mueller lawyers threatened to destroy the lives of bit players like Jerome Corsi, George Papadopoulos, and Roger Stone, they de facto provided exemption to a host of the Washington hierarchy who had lied under oath, obstructed justice, illegally leaked to the press, unmasked and leaked names of surveilled Americans, and misled federal courts under the guise of a “higher loyalty” to the cause of destroying Donald J. Trump.
The Palace Coup
All of the above came to a head with the firing of the chronic leaker FBI Director James Comey (who would lie to the president about his not being a target of an FBI investigation, lie to House investigatory committees by pleading amnesia and ignorance on 245 occasions, and repeatedly lie to his own FBI bureaucrats).
In May 2017, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe took over from the fired Comey.
His candidate wife recently had been a recipient of huge Clinton-related campaign PAC donations shortly before he began investigating the Clinton email scandal. McCabe would soon be cited by the Inspector General for lying to federal investigators on numerous occasions—cynically stooping even to lie to his own New York FBI subordinates to invest scarce resources to hunt for their own nonexistent leaks as a mechanism for disguising his own quite real and illegal leaking.
The newly promoted McCabe apparently felt that it was his moment to become famous for taking out a now President Trump.
Thus, he assembled a FBI and DOJ cadre to open a counterintelligence investigation of the sitting president on no other grounds but the fumes of an evaporating Clinton opposition dossier and perceived anger among the FBI that their director had just been fired.
In addition, apparently now posing as Andrew McCabe, MD, he informally head counted how many of Trump’s own cabinet members could be convinced by McCabe’s own apparent medical expertise to help remove the president on grounds of physical and mental incapacity under the 25th Amendment. This was an attempted, albeit pathetic, coup against an elected president and the first really in the history of the United States.
At one point, McCabe claims that the acting Attorney General of the United States Rod Rosenstein volunteered to wear a wire to entrap his boss President Trump—in the manner of Trump’s own attorney Michael Cohen’s entrapment of Trump, in the manner of James Comey taking entrapment notes on confidential Trump one-on-one meetings and leaking them to the press, and in the manner of the Department of Justice surveilling Trump subordinates through FISA and other court authorizations.
McCabe was iconic of an utterly corrupt FBI Washington hierarchy, which we now know from the behavior of its disgraced and departed leadership. They posed as patriotic scouts, but in reality proved themselves arrogant, smug, and incompetent. They harbored such a sense of superiority that they were convinced they could act outside the law in reifying an “insurance policy” that would end the Trump presidency.
The thinking of the conspirators initially had been predicated on three assumptions thematic during this three-year long government effort to destroy Trump:
One, during 2016, Hillary Clinton would certainly win the election and FBI and DOJ unethical and illegal behavior would be forgotten if not rewarded, given the Clintons’ own signature transgressions and proven indifference to the law;
Two, Trump was so controversial and the fabricated dossier was so vile and salacious, that seeded rumors of Trump’s faked perversity gave them de facto exemptions to do whatever they damned pleased;
Three, Trump’s low polls, his controversial reset of American policy, and the general contempt in which he was held by the bipartisan coastal elite, celebrities, and the deep state, meant that even illegal means to continue the campaign-era effort to destroy Trump and now abort his presidency were felt to be moral and heroic acts without legal consequences, and the media would see the conspirators as heroes.
In sum, the Left and the administrative state, in concert with the media, after failing to stop the Trump campaign, regrouped. They ginned up a media-induced public hysteria, with the residue of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s illegal opposition research, and manipulated it to put in place a special counsel, stocked with partisans.
Then, not thugs in sunglasses and epaulettes, not oligarchs in private jets, not shaggy would-be Marxists, but sanctimonious arrogant bureaucrats in suits and ties used their government agencies to seek to overturn the 2016 election, abort a presidency, and subvert the U.S. Constitution. And they did all that and more on the premise that they were our moral superiors and had uniquely divine rights to destroy a presidency that they loathed.
Shame on all these failed conspirators and their abettors, and may these immoral people finally earn a long deserved legal and moral reckoning.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books).