January 25, 2020

New Op-ed: Why the U.S. Security Establishment Can’t Stand Trump

Originally published by RealClearPolitics

The national security establishment of the United States recognizes a clear and present danger -- not a threat to America’s security, mind you, but rather to their own institutional power.

These Beltway apparatchiks determined early on in 2016 that Donald Trump and the “America First” movement he represented would strategically alter the way America interacts with the world. A Trump administration, they surmised, would directly challenge the prerogatives of the permanent national security apparatus that has operated as a sort of parallel government for decades. For too long, these power brokers have used positions of influence in government, lobbying firms, and media to plunge America into wasteful wars and global meddling. Such policy prescriptions served the ambitions of these operators, making them wealthy and powerful, while largely unaccountable to the American people, the ones who actually paid the massive price in blood and treasure.

As the national security establishment identified Donald Trump as a threat to this established order, it deployed the government’s substantial security capacities to interfere with his candidacy. When he won the presidency anyway, these deep state actors attempted to destabilize his presidency. As catalogued in an outline by my organization, the America First Action Super PAC, the pace of the intervention greatly accelerated as the Trump movement ascended. It culminated in the current Senate impeachment trial.

If you doubt the partisan nature of this exercise, consider that FBI Director James Comey claimed that he did not apprise the congressional “Gang of Eight” bipartisan leadership on his bureau’s “Crossfire Hurricane” operation vs. the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 because of the “sensitivity of the matter.” Yet, former CIA Director John Brennan was concurrently already updating political allies on the matter, including Sens. Harry Reid and Dianne Feinstein, and Rep. Adam Schiff, all Democrats. Brennan later tried to claim he did inform the Gang of Eight, but Republicans Paul Ryan, then House speaker, and Rep. Devin Nunes, who headed the House Intelligence Committee prior to Schiff, say they were not briefed.

Meanwhile, the FBI obtained FISA permission in 2016 to surveille Carter Page of the Trump campaign, using accusations of wrongdoing from the salacious and unverified Steele dossier, a partisan report financed by the Clinton campaign through intermediaries. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has already determined, retroactively, that at least two of these warrants against Trump operatives were “not valid.” Moreover, it has since been revealed that the FBI concealed from the FISA court the fact it knew that much of the Steele dossier gossip about Page was untrue.

Once Trump won the election, the pace of high-level briefings intensified alongside increasing leaks to media figures highly antagonistic to Trump. On Nov. 17, 2016, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers traveled to New York to brief Trump, without notifying his superiors. Rumors swirled that President-elect Trump was informed of ongoing surveillance of Trump Tower, and the transition operation moved to Bedminster, N.J., the very next day. On Nov. 19, the Washington Post reported that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other senior national security officials “recommended to President Obama that the Director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, be removed.”

After Trump’s inauguration, the machinations of the national security apparatus to thwart him ramped up. For example, on March 30, 2017, Trump asked Comey to “lift the cloud” of Russian cooperation that hung over his new presidency. While the FBI director assured Trump privately that he was not suspected of any wrongdoing, he insinuated otherwise publicly and was subsequently fired. Once out of office, in a sharp break with precedence, Comey, Clapper, and Brennan all became prominent media darlings, with the latter two employed by cable news channels to constantly hector the president on air.

Brennan was particularly venomous, constantly implying, as former CIA director and keeper of the national secrets, that Russian conspiracy indictments loomed for senior Trump officials, if not for the president himself. Brennan penned a New York Times opinion piece stating “Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.”

But as the Mueller Report revealed, the only “hogwash” was the torrent of accusations against Trump and his campaign. Mueller found no evidence that Team Trump, from the candidate on down to minor functionaries, cooperated with Russia in 2016. In fact, no American at all cooperated with Russia. With the Russian conspiracy hoax exposed, the national security operatives did not desist in their efforts to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. Instead, they pivoted, and a mid-level CIA bureaucrat assigned to the White House consulted with congressional Democrats, persuaded the intelligence community to change the requirements of the “whistleblower” regulations, and launched this whole farcical impeachment proceeding. Although not nearly as senior as Clapper or Brennan, this apparent whistleblower still fits their mold. Per RealClearInvestigations, just two weeks after President Trump took office, he “was overheard in the White House discussing with another staffer how to remove the newly elected president from office.”

Paul Sperry, the author of that piece, unearthed sources who overheard the conversation between whistleblower Eric Ciarmarella and Sean Misko, both Obama administration holdovers still serving in the White House under newly inaugurated President Trump. Sperry reported that “both expressed anger over Trump’s new ‘America First’ foreign policy, a sea change from President Obama’s approach to international affairs.” This pair, like so many similar operatives of the state security apparatus, was not merely content to attempt to stymie the president’s new America First approach, but rather to overthrow it wholesale by removing him from office.

Herein lies the real rub, the underlying struggle that truly thrusts our nation into this historic showdown. The administrative state, the permanent political class, wages an all-out assault on the will of the people who, through President Trump, decided to regain control over the leviathan of the federal government. Amazingly, Adam Schiff admitted as much in his impeachment presentation to the Senate, stating the conflict “cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”

Some politicians, like Schiff, are perfectly content to pretend to lead our government and simply perform as actors in a play. But Donald J. Trump demands to be the director, not some bit-part extra. For this “sin,” our national security and foreign policy elites have turned their political guns against him for almost four years. His coming acquittal, exoneration, and reelection will secure an important victory for a people fervently focused on reclaiming power over Washington.

-Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and national spokesman for the America First PAC. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.