In FBI vs. Trump, the people lose
Investigating Trump for an Espionage Act violation, the FBI opens a new chapter in a six-year, intra-elite feud.
For my money, the early beneficiary of the FBI’s espionage investigation of Donald Trump is Donald Trump.
According to the Washington Post, “Trump has told advisers that in the nearly two years since leaving office, no issue had better galvanized Republican voters around him.” A Politico poll of Republican voters in the aftermath of the Mar-a-Lago raid gave Trump a 10-point boost over his closest possible primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump’s ensuing fundraising campaign has done even better, quickly topping $1 million on at least two days, a jump of at least 700%.
Over the long run, it is difficult to form a conclusive judgment on Trump’s potential culpability in the absence of any confirmed detail about both the contents of the documents that Trump allegedly mishandled, and the evidence to support the Justice Department’s suspicions. But if the last six years of routine Trump standoffs with the national security state are any guide, the walls are nowhere closer to closing in.
Whatever your views on Trump, it is undeniable that the permanent military-intelligence bureaucracy in Washington does not see him as one of their own, and has gone to extraordinary lengths to target him when it sees fit. It is also undeniable that the national security state’s spats with Trump have distracted the public from vital issues that impact working people’s lives and the future of the planet. This includes, I have long argued, Trump’s most harmful policies as president, which were routinely overshadowed and even exacerbated by his standoffs with the “deep state.”
Accordingly, it is reasonable to expect that this latest “scandal” over the potential mishandling of classified documents will continue the trend that has defined the Trump era: an intra-elite, symbiotic feud that simultaneous boosts Trump among his base, and the national security state among his foes.
Pundits and politicians are resoundingly confident that the FBI must have the goods on Trump to have taken the unprecedented step of searching the former president’s home. This argument can only be made by ignoring that the FBI and other intelligence agencies took far more unprecedented and consequential actions against Trump when he was president, on grounds that were not only baseless, but fraudulent.
The FBI investigated Trump as a suspected Russian conspirator and asset – and not just once, but twice: first as a presidential candidate, and then months after he took office. To undertake this, they relied on the Hillary Clinton-funded Steele dossier’s conspiracy theories as source material; repeatedly lied to a FISA court; and, despite the full knowledge that they had come up empty, prolonged their investigation with media leaks and court filings that falsely suggested that a collusion “smoking gun” was within reach.
Russiagate apologists like to argue that the FBI’s use of the Steele dossier was an aberration that does not taint the whole enterprise. In fact, there are ample grounds to believe that Steele’s fabrications played an even greater role than the FBI has acknowledged – including, as I have detailed, possibly triggering the Russia investigation to begin with. But even taking the FBI’s official predicate at face value, the probe was baseless from start to finish.