By James Freeman The Wall Street Journal April 25, 2018
In Washington a picture is emerging of an eerie and lack-of-candor railroading of Donald Trump conducted by the likes of James Comey and Andrew McCabe. The abuse of power by government officials who refuse to acknowledge the authority of the duly-elected chief executive is not limited to the FBI. And such abuse has inspired one of the President’s harshest critics to raise an alarm.
The Hidden Bombshell in the McCabe Report
The news reports have all focused on the FBI’s second-in-command leaking information to the Wall Street Journal – or authorizing subordinates to do so — and then lying to investigators.
Warnings about an out-of-control “deep state” of bureaucrats who resist constitutional political authority have become standard fare in conservative media; this week brings a compelling new addition to the genre from a media outlet on the other end of the ideological spectrum.
Writing in the left-leaning British publication The Guardian, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith affirms that the improper exercise of executive authority by government officials pursuing their own agendas is not merely a figment of red-state imagination. According to Mr. Goldsmith:
America doesn’t have coups or tanks in the street. But a deep state of sorts exists here and it includes national security bureaucrats who use secretly collected information to shape or curb the actions of elected officials…
Since Trump was elected, unusually sensitive leaks of intelligence information designed to discredit him and his senior leadership have poured forth from current and former intelligence officials in the deep state.
It’s worth pausing here to note that while Mr. Goldsmith is not nearly as far to the left as most Guardian editors, he has been among the establishment Republicans most hostile to the President. Last fall he wrote in the Atlantic:
Donald Trump is testing the institution of the presidency unlike any of his 43 predecessors. We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. Trump is a Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ worst attributes: Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.
Mr. Goldsmith’s autumn commentary continued in this vein for paragraph after withering paragraph. The piece was titled, “Will Donald Trump Destroy the Presidency?” and featured an arresting illustration of a tilting White House sinking into an oily orange ocean. While it referenced the fact that Mr. Trump was also being victimized by abuses among career executive-branch officials who are supposed to be working for him, readers absorbing the Goldsmith screed were all but invited to view such abuses as a necessary response to a unique threat in the Oval Office.
Interestingly, in this week’s Guardian piece, Mr. Goldsmith spends a lot less acreage attacking Mr. Trump and a lot more time cataloging the offenses against him. The Harvard prof writes:
The deep state has been blamed for many things since Donald Trump became president, including by the president himself. Trump defenders have used the term promiscuously to include not just intelligence bureaucrats but a broader array of connected players in other administrative bureaucracies, in private industry, and in the media.
But even if we focus narrowly on the intelligence bureaucracies that conduct and use information collected secretly in the homeland, including the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA), and National Security Council, there is significant evidence that the deep state has used secretly collected information opportunistically and illegally to sabotage the president and his senior officials – either as part of a concerted movement or via individuals acting more or less independently.
Mr. Goldsmith compares current abuses to the era of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and notes that “while Hoover did many awful things in quiet, neither during his reign nor at any other time in American history have we seen such a profusion of sensitive leaks from the deep state with such an overtly political aim to bring down senior leadership.”
Paul Mirengoff at the Power Line blog notes that Mr. Goldsmith brings particular expertise on the workings of the federal security apparatus:
He was a high ranking Justice Department official — head the Office of Legal Counsel — during part of the George W. Bush administration. This placed him in the middle of issues regarding national security, electronic surveillance, and the like. He also worked closely with James Comey, including during the famous incident at Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital bed that made Comey famous (or at least a legend in his own mind).
This column is not predicting that committed partisans like Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) will ever stop claiming to have seen compelling evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia. But this latest message from Mr. Goldsmith, who knows Washington and knows the law, suggests that there’s now more evidence of a conspiracy against Mr. Trump.
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