Virgil: The Deep State vs. Donald Trump
1. The War Against Trump
Do the Democrats want Donald Trump to become the 45th president? Of course not. And how about the Democrats’ handmaiden, the Main Stream Media? Do they want Trump in the White House? Of course not. And how ‘bout all the other affluent residents of the Washington “swamp,” which Trump has pledged to drain—do you think any of them want Trump? Of course not. Together, these anti-Trump constituencies help form what has been called the Deep State, which is a real and serious thing, and which we will explore further in a moment.
Yet first, we can take a look at the latest news, because let’s not kid ourselves: These anti-Trump constituencies might have lost the 2016 presidential election at the ballot box, but they don’t intend to lose their power. And to that end, they have real clout, and they are using it.
In particular, wily in the ways of Washington, the anti-Trumpers are operating behind the scenes, using their well-greased legal and political machinery to block the President-elect, or at least to discredit and de-legitimize him, such that his presidency is crippled. And as a part of that backroom effort, the MSM is always ready with a supportive, momentum-building headline or two—or two thousand.
We all remember the anti-Trump protests that immediately erupted after the election—some of them, it would seem, funded by George Soros and his ilk. But such “guerrilla theater” in the streets was just an overture; the real battle, today, is in the suites.
So on Saturday, December 10, Sen. Harry Reid, the outgoing leader of the Senate Democrats, helped set the new anti-Trump agenda in an appearance on MSNBC; hence this headline: “Reid: Russian Involvement In Election ‘A Hanging Chad 1,000 Times Over,’ Trump ‘Lost the Election.’” The words “hanging chad,” of course, are a reference to the 2000 presidential election—that being another time when the Democrats lost and responded by seeking to derail the victor, Republican George W. Bush.
Today, the looming flashpoint, of course, is the December 19 convening of the electoral college. Normally, these sessions in the 50 states are just a formality, in which the 538 electors ratify the candidate who won the most electoral votes as the next president. And since Trump won 306 electoral votes in November, a clear majority, there should be no doubt as to who will be inaugurated on January 20—but maybe there is.
Yes, we must ask: What will actually happen on the 19th of this month?
For weeks now, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has been agitating to overturn the presidential election results. Back on November 24, he wrote in The Washington Post that the electoral college should meet and vote Hillary Clinton into the White House.
Since then, Lessig has helped to form a group, HamiltonElectors.com, aimed at encouraging “faithless electors,” of which there have been a few over the years, to be faithless, now, in record numbers. Today, Lessig’s website says merely that it wants the electors to break from Trump and vote for a “qualified Republican alternative.”
But of course, in such a chaotic situation, if the electors feel free to break faith with their commitment to Trump, anything could happen. And Lessig himself is just as much of a Democrat as ever and so, too, we can assume, are his financial backers. (Interestingly, the site is rather coy about the identity of its funders.)
As the Lessig site declares, “Together We Can Stop Trump.” Yes, that’s one goal, and yet it’s also safe to assume that if Lessig & Co. get what they really want, then Hillary will become the 45th president.
And in fact, one Republican elector, Christopher Suprun of Texas, has already declared that he won’t vote for Trump next week. And guess what: Suprun has become a hero to The New York Times and the rest of the MSM.
So in the meantime, for the next week or so, the anti-Trump goal is simply to encourage chaos because from their point of view, only good things could happen. And here, once again, the always dutiful Politico is happy to help; hence this trio of headlines, which are just a sampling: “Rogue electors brief Clinton camp on anti-Trump plan,” “Washington state presidential electors file third lawsuit in anti-Trump effort,” and “Dem congressman: Electoral College has ‘right’ to weigh Russian hacking.”
And just on December 12 came the news—or perhaps we should we put “news” in quotes, since it’s just a press release—that the Hillary Clinton campaign wants the electoral college to be “briefed” on the Russia hacking allegations—which presumably means rehashing all the news stories. In other words, the Clinton campaign wants yet another chance to rehash the same suppositions and suspicions, as opposed to actual facts, of which there seem to be none. Again, the mission is simple: throw sand in the gears of the constitutional machinery.
Meanwhile, others are joining the anti-Trump effort. For example, here’s another one of CNN’s contributions to the anti-Trump cause, focused on the words of Robert Baer, who made a name for himself as a critic of George W. Bush in the ‘00s: “Ex-CIA operative: We may need a new vote.”
There’s nothing in the Constitution, of course, about a presidential-election do-over, and so there’s zero precedent for any such national re-vote, and yet, as we have seen, the minimum goal of the anti-Trump forces is to sow massive confusion.
And in the wake of such confusion, what if on December 19 a few electors were to suggest, say, a delay in the vote of the electoral college? Once again, this is all highly hypothetical, but it’s a safe bet that somewhere, some gang of law professors is feverishly writing a brief declaring that such action is not only desirable, but also fully legal and constitutional. And so now, if they can only find a friendly judge . . .
Still, in the end, it’s hard for Virgil to believe that these machinations to stop the electoral college from voting for Trump on the 19th will be successful.
And so, in the event of an actual President Trump, the anti-Trumpers have their Plan B. And that is this: The anti-Trumpers will systematically defame and degrade the 45th president with an eye toward paralyzing his effectiveness in office and hopefully making him a one-termer—or less.
Whoa, the reader might be saying. Less than a one-termer? Really? Yes, that’s the hope of hardcore anti-Trumpers, such as David Brooks of The New York Times, who wrote on November 11 that Trump will “probably resign or be impeached within a year.” That’s the level of hatred that the elite harbors for Trump.
So in this coming post-campaign campaign, the anti-Trumpers will start as they started with George W. Bush, 16 years ago: The new Republican president lost the popular vote, he has no mandate, and no true legitimacy in office.
After that, the anti-Trumpers will advance their next theme: the purported “Russia Connection.” That was a common enough theme during the 2016 election campaign, but the opening gun in the renewed effort was fired on December 9, when The Washington Post headlined, “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House.” As the Post put it:
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
That’s rather an incendiary accusation, eh?—that the Russians actively plotted to interfere in an American presidential election. (One wonders whatever happened to Hillary Clinton’s 2009 “re-set” of relations with Russia.)
We can note that the evidence cited in the Post story is thin to non-existent; we must trust the newspaper when it quotes an unnamed source described only as “a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators,” saying:
It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. . . . That’s the consensus view.
One’s first reaction is to say, “Gee, it certainly is interesting that a ‘secret CIA assessment’ found its way on to the front page of the Post.” Obviously, the anti-Trump forces have a lot of little helpers in the government, leaking like crazy, and in the MSM, lapping up the leaks. That’s the Deep State in action, and we’ll get to that shortly.
And the second reaction is to echo what the office of the President-elect said in response: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Indeed, one can also add that the same “intel community” has been so highly politicized in the Obama years that it has also told us, with a straight face, that “climate change” is a dire national security threat, perhaps the most dire. In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry has made that assertion at least 22 times. And we’re supposed to trust these people?
Interestingly, even as the Russia-did-it storyline played out, actual evidence, let alone proof, that the Russians aimed to tilt the election was, well, non-existent. The New York Times, which never misses a chance to whack Trump, splashed the story on its front page, again, on December 12, but even it had to admit that there was no actual evidence that the Russians were trying to help Trump—it’s simply their new considered opinion:
The C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence—evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments—that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome. [emphasis added]
Assuming that the Times is accurately reflecting the consensus opinion inside the CIA, we are left to wonder what could be motivating the agency to put forth such a strong, but evidence-less, opinion. And to help answer that question, we might turn to a December 10 story in The Daily Beast, reporting on the anti-Trump angst inside the agency:
“There’s a real revolt going on,” said a former intelligence officer of the CIA leaks, citing discussions with former colleagues. “They don’t like [National Security Adviser nominee Michael] Flynn and they hate Trump’s guts. [emphasis added]
Is that really the explanation for all this leaking? They “hate Trump’s guts”? And for that reason, CIA personnel are willing to twist the intelligence and traduce the reputation of their agency? Virgil can only say: If the men and women of the CIA felt so strongly against Trump, maybe they should have donated more to the Hillary Clinton campaign—that would have been an honest expression of their view, as opposed to a sneak attack, post-election.
2. The Dimensions of the Deep State
So now let’s get to the corpus of what we’re talking about. The term “Deep State” refers to the complex of bureaucrats, technocrats, and plutocrats that likes things just the way they are and wants to keep them like that—elections be damned.
Some might say that “Deep State” is just a synonym for the “Establishment,” and yet “Deep State” refers to a larger grouping, not just to the stereotypical elite “chattering class.” We can also observe that a Deep State can be found in just about every country in the world, but our focus here, of course, is on the United States.
And here in America, the Deep State has its own political consciousness, and it aims to survive any change of government with its collective will—and self-interest—fully intact.
Normally, the Deep State is hidden, albeit, at the same time, hiding in plain sight. That is, while nobody has “Deep State” on his or her business card, the reality of the Deep State is overwhelming: It’s not just the hulking office buildings of the Federal Triangle in downtown DC, it’s also the taxpayer-funded mini-metropolises that have sprouted up in Bethesda, Maryland, Crystal City, Virginia, and a dozen other hubs in and around the I-495 Beltway. (Hence the familiar phrase, “Beltway Bandits”; Virgil can attest that federal contractors have assumed a kind of ironic affection for that phrase—at least in their private conversations.)
A careful taxonomy of the Deep State must begin, of course, with the governmental bureaucracy, which, because of civil-service protections, does not change when one political party or the other takes control of the White House or Congress. Today, there are about 2.8 million civilian federal employees, as well 1.3 million in the uniformed military.
And yet in citing the number of government employees, we’ve only scratched the surface, because for every “public servant,” there seems to be one or more private-sector operator. To illustrate this phenomenon, we can take a snapshot of just one federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security. It’s been estimated that at least 100,000 private contractors work at DHS—although nobody really knows, and some estimates go much higher.
Indeed, the sheer unknowability of the federal contractor empire is a common theme in Beltway journalism. Hence this headline from March 12, 2015, appearing in Government Executive magazine: “Even CBO Is Stumped on the Size of the Contractor Workforce.” The “CBO,” of course, is the Congressional Budget Office. That’s right, even the budget agency of Congress can’t figure out the true number—although some would say that lawmakers have never really wanted to know.
These contractors, many of whom are former federal employees, are well compensated. Here, for example, is a 2013 headline from The Washington Times: “Executive pay balloons for federal contractors.” The Times identified at least 77 contractors whose revenue came from the federal government and paid their top five executives more than $3 million a year, for an average of $600,000 each. And where do these big salaries come from? From big markups, of course. To cite just one of a million possible examples, one company sold Apple MacBook Pro computers to Uncle Sam for markups of between $2000 and $4000 each.
So as we can see, the Deep State is much larger, and wealthier, than just the bureaucrats. Funded by a federal government that will spend more than $4 trillion this year, the Deep State includes all the wheeler-dealers, plus the hired-gun experts, lawyers, think-tankers, foundation executives, and others that have sometimes been dubbed the “New Class.”
And the proof that this New Class is doing well can be found in the Census data, which show that four of the five richest counties in the US are in the DC metro area.
And it’s this luxe life, which has reached its apex under Barack Obama, that finds itself threatened by the drain-the-swamp pledge of Trump. As The New York Times headlined its so-sad story on November 13, “A Newly Vibrant Washington Fears That Trump Will Drain Its Culture.”
Yet in fact, the Deep State extends well beyond Washington. In 2011, Suzanne Mettler, a professor at Cornell University, published The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy. Mettler is no conspiracy-theorist; her argument is that federal policies, notably tax deductions and credits, have had the effect of encouraging the growth of government in ways that most people never notice. Mettler’s work is controversial, insofar as she equates taxes that the government did not collect with actual government spending. And yet the author has a point, because to the extent that the tax law encourages or discourages behavior, it is, in fact, a kind of government policy. And the total annual value of these tax incentives has been estimated at nearly $1 trillion. For better or worse, that’s a lot of money for a lot of people.
And then there’s the cost of regulation. Annual federal regulatory compliance costs—that is, the expense of dealing with all that red tape—are estimated to total at least $2 trillion. And yet we must add this important note: For all the millions of businesses and individuals who must pay the cost of regulation, there are plenty of others who benefit, at least in the short run, from that regulation. And these perverse beneficiaries, we can further observe, are more likely be acutely aware of how their bread is buttered—here’s looking at you, solar-power industry!—and will thus be all more determined to defend the status quo.
And while we’re at it, in our Deep State examination, let’s not forget the whole huge cluster of federal loans and loan guarantees. Once again, nobody really knows how much all that costs, but estimates range from hundreds of billions (annually) to many trillions (cumulatively).
Not surprisingly, the beneficiaries of all this federal easy money tend to stay quiet about their winnings, but some are vocal. Here, for example, is a 2015 headline from The Los Angeles Times; “Elon Musk defends $4.9 billion in government money for his companies.”
Of course, in our survey of the dimensions of the Deep State, we haven’t even touched on state and local government; their expenditures, in 2012, were estimated to total $2.59 trillion. Moreover, that dollar total doesn’t include the sort of the “submerged” expenditures that Mettler and others have described.
To sum up, in 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the total number of federal, state, and local employees is 21,995,000. And yet again, the real workforce could be much larger: Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has estimated that the true size of the governmental workforce actually totals 40 million Americans.
3. A Closer Look at the Deep State’s Campaign Against Trump
Okay, so we have seen some ways of measuring the size of the Deep State; it is, indeed, an incredible hulk. And yet the reader might ask: Does that mean that all of those 20 million, or even 40 million, people are opposed to Trump?
And the answer, of course, is “No.” It’s a cinch that quite a few public employees were and are Trump supporters. And yet at the same time, it would be naive not to realize that Trump fans are the minority within the Deep State. Moreover, it’s safe to say that most of the leadership of the Deep State—that being, at best, a hazy category—is solidly in the anti-Trump camp.
This anti-Trump hostility, we might note, is now more visible—even in entities that might be thought of as being on the right, such as the military and other organizations dedicated to national security. And why is that? One obvious reason is that liberal Democrats have controlled the executive branch for 16 of the last 24 years, and so there’s been plenty of time to cultivate liberals—even liberal activists—within the ranks and to bring them to the pinnacles of bureaucratic power.
As we know, the Pentagon has not been immune from various forms of political correctness over the years; indeed, many of the most ambitious careerists within DOD have often been leading the leftward charge. To be sure, the vast bulk of our nation’s warriors are staunch believers in Douglas MacArthur’s trinity of “duty, honor, country,” and so they stood up and cheered, for example, on December 7, when Admiral Harry Harris ripped into anti-American football player Colin Kaepernick.
Yet still, during the Obama years, such patriots have been layered over by liberal apparatchiks. And the same left-pushing syndrome has been equally true of all federal security agencies.
In other words, there’s a power struggle that’s coming inside many government units: the pro-Obama old guard vs. the pro-Trump new guard.
Yet for now, at least until January 20, the Obamans are in charge. And so that might explain this December 11 headline in The Washington Post: “Trump, CIA on collision course over Russia’s role in election.”
Indeed, there’s a lot of institutional throw-weight lined up against Trump.
And that institutional opposition to Trump has plenty of allies, including among many Republicans. So the reader might ask: How many Republican Never Trumpers are to be found within the ranks of the anti-Trumpers of the Deep State? And the answer to that question appears to be, many.
On December 10, for example, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a libertarian Republican gadfly always hostile to Trump, tweeted in response to the Trump team’s statement denying any Russia connection:
Transition team’s dismissive statement doesn’t cut it. Congress must determine if there’s credible evidence and investigate if necessary.
In the meantime, more prominent Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. John McCain, having never made any secret of their disdain for Trump, are now actively working with the Democrats, preparing to besiege the Trump administration.
Graham, we might recall, even volunteered that he voted for Evan McMullin. And where did McMullin make his career? Why, the CIA. Small world! And although McMullin received less than half a percent of the vote in November, he continues to attack Trump, and the MSM continues to chronicle his every spiteful word.
And now Graham and McCain, joined by the Democrats, are determined to push a Congressional investigation of Trump’s alleged connections to Russia. As Graham and McCain, joined by two Democrats, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in a joint statement on Sunday, “This cannot become a partisan issue,” adding, “The stakes are too high for our country.”
Without minimizing the importance of putting a halt to cyber-attacks on America, wherever they might come from, we can translate this statement: It’s not a partisan issue, it’s an institutional issue: Deep State vs. Trump.
Such Congressional investigations, we might add, have a way of taking on a life of their own, lumbering forward forever, like some sort of relentless Terminator. And so, even as terrorist bombs are going off across the world, the Congressional branch of the Deep State is focusing on the enemy it truly wants to terminate—Trump.
For its part, the MSM is always happy to push the narrative that the anti-Trump effort is both necessary and bipartisan: hence this December 11 headline in The New York Times, “Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with G.O.P.” As the Times put it:
An extraordinary breach has emerged between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the national security establishment, with Mr. Trump mocking American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, and top Republicans vowing investigations into Kremlin activities.
And whatever happens with the Congressional investigation in the short run, it’s a certainty that investigative reporters, would-be muckrakers, foundation-funded documentary filmmakers, and other self-appointed culture creators will be working this story for the long run—the very long run. Even if they can’t succeed in driving Trump out of office, they can hope to pin an “asterisk” on Trump’s historical legacy, so that he is always remembered, at least in certain quarters, as Putin’s President.
So there it is: the Deep State, in all its power, and its fury. It stretches across the whole of the federal government—indeed, the entirety of the country. And it includes not only bureaucrats, but also a galaxy of contractors, profiteers, and others in the nominal private sector. And it includes not only Democrats, but also Republicans. And oh yes, the MSM and the chattering class.
In other words, a great power struggle is under way: the Deep State vs. Trump.
And so one last question: Who’s likely to prevail? We can answer by observing that Trump has done well so far, and yet we can also observe that the Deep State hasn’t given up, and probably never will.