"What if the US judicial system just can’t manage to clean up the mess it has made?"
The author is a prominent American social critic, blogger, and podcaster, and one of our all-time favorite pessimists. We carry his articles regularly on RI. His writing on Russia-gate has been highly entertaining.
He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed 'The Dystopians' in an excellent 2009 profile, along with the brilliant Dmitry Orlov, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.
You can find his popular fiction and novels on this subject, here. To get a sense of how entertaining he is, watch this 2004 TED talk about the cruel misery of American urban design - it is one of the most-viewed on TED. Here is a recent audio interview with him which gives a good overview of his work.
If you like his work, please consider supporting him on Patreon.
The original title of this essay was "Deep Quandaries of the Deep State"
Watergate had tragic Shakespearean overtones, with Nixon as King Lear, but Russia-Gate — perhaps the last gate America goes through on its giant slalom run to collapse — is but a Chinese Fire Drill writ large. The reason? In 1973, we were still a serious people. Today, the most lavishly credentialed elite in history believe the most preposterous “stories,” or, surely even worse, pretend to believe them for political advantage.
Now, an epic battle of wills is setting up as Robert Mueller’s investigation concludes its business and its primary target, the Golden Golem of Greatness, girds his loins to push back. Behind the flimsy scrim of Russia collusion accusations stands a bewildering maze of criminal mischief by a matrix of federal agencies that lost control of their own dark operation to meddle in the 2016 election.
The US intel community (CIA, NSA, FBI, etc), with the Department of Justice, all colluded with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the intel agencies of the UK and Australia, to derail Mr. Trump as a stooge of Russia and, when he shocked them by getting elected, mounted a desperate campaign to cover their asses knowing he had become their boss. The Obama White House was involved in all this, attempting to cloak itself in plausible deniability, which may be unwinding now, too. How might all this play out from here?
One big mystery is how long will Mr. Trump wait to declassify any number of secret files, memoranda, and communications that he’s been sitting on for months. My guess is that this stuff amounts to a potent weapon against his adversaries and he will wait until Mr. Mueller releases a final report before declassifying it. Then, we’ll have a fine constitutional crisis as the two sides vie for some sort of adjudication.
Who, for instance, will adjudicate the monkey business that is already on-the-record involving misdeeds in the Department of Justice itself? Will the DOJ split into two contesting camps, each charging the other? How might that work? Does the Acting Attorney General Mr. Whitaker seek indictments against figures such as Bruce Ohr, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, et al. Will he also rope in intel cowboys John Brennan and James Clapper? Might Hillary find herself in jeopardy — all the while on the other side Mr. Mueller pursues his targets, characters like Mr. Manafort, Michael Cohen, and the hapless Carter Page?
Or might Mr. Mueller, and others, possibly find themselves in trouble, as spearheads of a bad-faith campaign to weaponize government agencies against a sitting president? That might sound outlandish, but the evidence is adding up. In fact the evidence of a Deep State gone rogue is far more compelling than any charges Mr. Mueller has so far produced on Trump-Russia “collusion.” An example of bad faith is former FBI Director James Comey’s current campaign to avoid testifying in closed session before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees — he filed a motion just before Thanksgiving. Mr. Comey is pretending that an open session would be “transparent.”
His claim is mendacious. If he were questioned about classified matters in an open session, he would do exactly what he did before in open session: decline to answer about “sensitive” matters on the basis of national security. He could make no such claims in a closed session. The truth is, his attorneys are trying to run out the clock on the current composition of the house committees, which will come under a Democrat majority in January, so that Mr. Comey can avoid testifying altogether.
There are other dicey matters awaiting some kind of adjudication elsewhere. For instance, who is going to review the chain of decisions among the FISA judges who approved of warrants made in bad faith to spy on US citizens? Perhaps the shrinking violet, Mr. Huber, out in the Utah Prosecutor’s Office of the DOJ, is looking into all that. He’s been at something for most of the year (nobody knows what). He has to answer to Mr. Whitaker now, or the permanent AG who replaces him. And why is Mr. Trump dragging his heels on nominating a permanent AG? I suppose the FISA court matter will fall to the Supreme Court, but how does that process work, and how long might it take?
The potential for a stand-off exists that will confound any effort to untangle these things, and I can see how that might lead to an extraordinary crisis in which Mr. Trump has to declare some form of emergency or perhaps martial law to clean out this suppurating abscess of illegality and sedition.
That can only be the last and worst resort, but what if the US judicial system just can’t manage to clean up the mess it has made?