Apologies for setting off the fire alarm, but:
Francis Rooney (R-FL): I’m very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails. People need a good, clean government.
Hallie Jackson: Do you think people don’t have a good clean government? … There are those that look at comments, like the ones that you’re making, and say that Republicans are working to, essentially, try to discredit the Department of Justice and thus discredit the Russia investigations. Is that not what you’re doing?Rooney: No, I don’t want to discredit’m. I, just, I would like to see the directors of the agencies purge it, and say, look, we’ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here. Those are the people I want the American people to see, and know the good works being done. Not these people, who are kind of the deep state.
Jackson: Language like that, congressman, “purge?” Purge the Department of Justice?
Rooney: Well, I think that Mr. Strzok could be purged, sure.
To put that in context, Peter Strzok exchanged a series of private texts with Lisa Page, while Strzok was part of Mueller’s Special Council investigation. Upon learning of the texts, Mueller removed him from the case. Just over three months later, a selection of those texts were released to Fox News and Republican lawmakers, who immediately seized on Strzok’s anti-Trump comments as proof of bias. Problem is, only a subset of those texts were ever released, from an active investigation into the situation, and the Department of Justice is refusing to answer important questions about them. Also, Strzok had a lot of opinions.
Regarding Clinton, Strzok once texted, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.” He also referred to Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as “self-entitled,” and dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I – Vt., as an “idiot.” Page also called Sanders supporters “idiots.” They also both had low opinions of President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, with Strzok writing it was “wildly offensive” for Holder’s portrait to be next to that of iconic Attorney General Elliott Richardson and insisting that a television be turned off when Holder spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
Page perhaps best summed up their worldview when she texted Strzok during lunch with an unidentified person: “We both hate everyone and everything.”
Finally, there’s no evidence Strzok’s private opinions had any influence on Mueller’s investigation of Trump! Remember the “active investigation” bit? When the texts were released to Republicans and Fox News, the DoJ had still not concluded an internal probe into the matter. Now that those texts have been hopelessly politicised, how can that investigation remain free of charges of bias?
And yet, based on that context, a Republican Congressperson is ready to “purge” the FBI of people like Strzok. People who, so far, are only guilty of privately saying mean things about the US President.
We’re not even a year into Trump’s presidency, yet the United States is becoming an authoritarian state far faster than I thought possible. Others are catching on to this, too.
Note that the calls for a “purge” of the FBI and DOJ are becoming more explicit, actually using the word “purge” and moving from the right-wing publications to sitting members of Congress. A small part of this is simple partisanship, what threatens the leader of your political party is bad and needs to be attacked. But what we’re seeing goes far, far beyond that and can only be explained by the Republican right’s broader embrace of authoritarianism, which both predates Trump, accounts for his rise and has in turn been accelerated by his presidency.
This point is critical to remember. Trump’s flouting of democratic norms during the campaign was a core element, perhaps the core element, of his appeal. Support for Trump certainly wasn’t in spite of this. Nor was it incidental. We focus on Trump’s antics. They remain erratic and unbridled. But equally important, probably more important, is the absence of any overriding respect for the rule of law or democratic norms among his supporters. Functionally that means the entire Republican party, even if individual Republican officeholders may express a muted displeasure.
Others were way ahead of me.
Given that some of [Rep. Lindsey] Graham’s worst fears about Trump’s Kremlin ties and mental state have been legitimized, what accounts for the senator’s changed attitude toward the president? There are a variety of possible rationales available for conjecture, many of which apply to the GOP at large. Opportunism may play a role, as Graham complies with Trump in order to pursue right-wing extremist economic policies and war. Blackmail may also be an issue, given that Graham has admitted his email was hacked, as was the RNC’s, by Russia. Trump has derided and threatened members of Congress and private citizens, and it’s not a stretch to imagine him unleashing his fire– publicly or privately–on Graham.
Graham’s radical change in rhetoric is reminiscent of the behavior one sees in autocratic regimes when potential political opponents are mollified or threatened into compliance. But the truly troubling question is not what is driving his changed behavior, but what it means for the rest of the GOP, especially as speculation mounts that the Trump administration could end Mueller’s investigation and propagandists recast Republicans like James Comey and Mueller as enemies of the state. In 2016, Graham initiated the call for an investigation into Trump’s Kremlin ties. In 2018, judging by his recent actions, Graham may lead the way in ensuring there are no consequences for what investigators have discovered.
Either way, it’s time to panic. Americans, your democracy is rapidly degrading! There is no better time to become politically active, to petition your representatives, and push back against those that would rob you of political power. The rest of the world is counting on you, because the consequences will effect the rest of us.