President Donald Trump and his loyal followers in the U.S. Congress and conservative media have declared war on the FBI and the intelligence community. Yes, they give lip service to the "rank and file," but they are more than willing to slander any one of them who may have found a clue that Donald Trump was involved in something unethical or illegal.
This seems bizarre in light of the Republican Party's longstanding image as the champion of "law and order," which was even one of Trump's many slogans purloined from previous Republican campaigns. But since Trump is personally under suspicion in a counterespionage investigation, conservative fidelity to criminal justice and intelligence institutions are no longer operative. Interestingly, for all their newfound concerns about these powerful organizations, Republicans have not held hearings about CIA torture or inappropriate NSA surveillance of average citizens or FBI entrapment of Muslims into plots they never would have thought of themselves. Indeed, all of those who are railing about the Deep State's nefarious persecution of Donald Trump voted just last week to renew a controversial NSA spying program without batting an eye.
Oversight of law enforcement and intelligence institutions by elected officials is necessary to a healthy democracy. Oddly, the only thing these people have found time to look into are a closed case pertaining to their leader's defeated rival in the 2016 election and alleged misconduct by career professionals investigating credible charges against the president. And as I wrote on Wednesday, they have been very busy indeed.
It's not clear how the rank and file of the FBI or other federal law enforcement agencies are taking this attack by their normally supportive friends in the Republican Party. One imagines they are a bit confused. The leader of the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has been in the middle of all this, despite having deeply angered the president for following DOJ guidelines and recusing himself from overseeing the investigation of the Trump campaign's Russian connections.
Trump was so politically inexperienced and unqualified for the presidency (not to mention instinctively unethical and historically corrupt) that he had no concept of the necessity of independence in the application of the rule of law. So when he publicly said that if he'd known Sessions would recuse himself from the ongoing counterespionage case he would never have appointed him in the first place, Trump was apparently unaware that he was admitting he wanted a toady in the job who would ensure that he remained above the law.
The New York Times reported this week that Sessions was interviewed by Robert Mueller's prosecution team about the dismissals of James Comey and Michael Flynn, as well as what seems to be a continuing "pattern" of Trump seeking to illegally influence witnesses and intimidate members of his administration -- including Sessions himself -- into ending that probe.
At one point, the attorney general reportedly offered to resign. Trump apparently wanted to kick him around some more so he kept him on. Sessions has figuratively prostrated himself at Trump's feet ever since, to the point that Sessions has taken the president's side in this inane crusade against the FBI and in the process has likely turned everyone with any integrity in his own agency against him. Sessions' servile behavior has to stick in the craws of the career employees, many of whom are as conservative as he is but are unlikely to think it's OK for the attorney general to engage in this level of partisanship at their expense.
This week, Sessions stepped up to try to get a twofer: Kiss the king's ring and appeal to the rank and file at the same time. He wrote a fawning, over-the-top op-ed praising the president for what he claimed was a dramatic cut in violent crime. He even evoked Trump's embarrassing inaugural catchphrase, "American carnage," which depicted the nation as a dystopian nightmare:
[F]or too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
It could have been worse. He could have called it "American s**thole," which he clearly believes accurately describes much of the country.
According to Sessions, the "silent majority" of men and women in police uniforms have delivered for their "law and order" president: It's pretty much Morning in America.
When President Trump was inaugurated, he made the American people a promise: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” It is a promise that he has kept.
Trump ran for office on a message of law and order, and he won. When he took office, he ordered the Department of Justice to stop and reverse these trends — and that is what we have been doing every day for the past year. We have placed trust in our prosecutors again, and we’re restoring respect for law enforcement.
I'll just leave that there for you to chuckle over for a moment, in light of the current right-wing crusade against the Department of Justice.
Naturally, the substance of his claim is completely wrong. There was no crime wave to begin with, and to the extent there was a slight decline in violent crime last year (about 0.8 percent), that was the continuation of a long-term trend. (Crime rates have been falling pretty much continuously since the early 1990s and have now reached historic lows in many cities.) As with everything else in the Trump administration, including the misleading "terrorism" report released a week ago, its minions are simply making up facts.
In this case, the rosy misdirection is not only meant to make Trump feel good about himself, it is also designed to make the GOP base (which includes a lot of law enforcement) feel reassured. Even though Trump is slandering the FBI and federal prosecutors on a daily basis, the Law and Order president is still going after "real criminals."
Jeff Sessions has been a dedicated anti-immigrant crusader for decades. He is determined to make sure that drug users are harshly punished, and he wants to Make America Great Again by imprisoning as many African-Americans as he can. That's why he signed on with Trump in the first place, and it's why he is willing to take mountains of public grief from his president in order to remain in office. Apparently, Sessions is so determined to enact his dark, antediluvian agenda that he will put up with any level of humiliation and betray his own Justice Department to get the job done.