The FBI’s traces its roots to an inglorious past. Under Hoover, the FBI served as a quasi-police, quasi-intelligence, quasi-military force to go up against “groups” of criminals deemed “subversive” to the “system,” many of them mob figures, and bootleggers, to big for regular police forces, but the FBI also pursued political causes, socialists, even the civil rights movement and – to Hoover’s ever shame, Martin Luther King.
President Carter put an end to the political “shade” thrown by the FBI. Henceforth, the FBI and Department of Justice would be equal to, but “different” than, the other “political” agencies within any president’s administration. Certainly, the tension was always there, Karl Rove fired U.S. Attorneys unwilling to play ball against certain Democratic candidates. But by and large, through President Obama and the Holder-Lynch Justice Department, and the Comey FBI, politics has been held largely at bay since Carter.
And now we have Trump. A man so grossly out of step with the ideal of an independent FBI that he not only invited the Director to dinner, but came out and directly asked for “loyalty” from that director. Trump asked a nominee for the newly open Director’s position whom he voted for. And, Trump famously asked Rosenstein if he was a member of the “team.”
Trump seeks to turn the FBI into his own personal political tool, for attorney general, he wants his “Roy Cohn.” He told a reporter in December that he has “the absolute right” to do whatever he wants with “his” Department of Justice. On numerous occasions, he’s used similarly possessive language referring to ‘my generals” when speaking of our military.
More dangerously, he had called on the FBI to investigate his former (he does know it is “former,” right?) political opponent, Hillary Clinton. He publicly berated his Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia inquiry. Sessions will receive some praise here, because Sessions didn’t back down, nor resign, as Trump surely wanted Sessions to do without having to formally ask Sessions to resign.
Now, and worst of all, Trump is looking to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the behavior of the FBI and Justice Department during the 2016 election. Trump wants to investigate those investigating him.
Of course he does, such an investigation is the only way to determine whose “team” everyone is on. The point of such an investigation is not to figure out who did right or wrong, who might’ve broken the law or who followed it. No, the purpose is to separate out Trump’s “team players” from those on the “deep state.” Anyone who doubts that Trump had dictatorial aspirations need only look at Trump’s furor over the fact that there exists an entire federal bureaucracy in place, maybe not every member of this career public servant class on board with Trump’s plans, and realize that Trump is not the first president to walk into power with a “deep state” awaiting. All did. Trump is just the first to want to burn them all out, leaving far fewer to remain, all entirely loyal to him.
I’m guilty of hyperventilating about some issues concerning Trump. However, on two issues: 1) the importance of ignoring the law directing him to sanction Russia, and 2) the creation of a politically reactionary para-military force for a budding dictator, I think I’ve not sounded the alarms enough.
The founders spent an incredibly hot summer in Philadelphia, cooped up inside, without AC, all trying to devise a framework to contain the type of leader who referred to our military personnel as “my generals,” or any department as “my FBI.” The constitution is set-up to contain the type of person who believed that he could counter an investigation into him by investigating his accusers. The founders devised a system whereby no “person” is the government. Trump attempts to tear it all down in less than two years, and I do not see the will in Congress, as it’s currently constituted, to stopping him.
I cannot tell if Trump simply doesn’t understand or have the basic education as to how our government of checks and balances works, and is thus “innocently” attempting to accrue the power that he believes is rightfully is as president, or whether he knows the exact limitations under the constitution, but doesn’t value the American democratic republic enough to care to see it last beyond his presidency. It’s probably the latter, has Trump ever cared about anything beyond himself?
Regardless. as essential requirement to any self-respecting dictator is his own security force, loyal to him, without even the pretense of a higher calling to a country, think of Hitler’s S.S. It is dangerous to ever make Hitler comparisons in the context of any other government. One risks disrespecting the true victims of the holocaust and war dead. However, one can also fail the promise to “never forget” if one does not point to parallels as they occur in modern times, all to ensure, “never again.”
Trump seeks a subservient FBI “loyal” to him – he’s told us that. The implications of a heavily armed, highly trained and highly technical para-military force loyal to anyone but the U.S. citizenry is something that should shake our foundation.