One of Sherlock Holmes’ enduring tropes is the dog that didn’t bark in the night, giving away the fact that it knew the intruder. It’s easy to notice what happens, but far harder to notice the telling thing that doesn’t happen when it should.
In mid-February, a US intelligence chief confessed on prime-time TV to plotting with other top Washington bureaucrats to knock off a president, Trump, with much the same tone you would use to discuss an annoying staff meeting that was keeping you back at work late. ‘Well, we were worried about the Russian probe, what if Trump got rid of me, so we thought, would the 25th Amendment work, where the President could be declared incapable of performing his duties? We could get two of his Cabinet members to approve that, maybe more, not sure about the V P? So then the DoJ’s deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says, maybe I could wear a wire, they don’t check me when I go in, and tape the president, would that work?’
I paraphrase, but just a bit. The FBI’s fired and disgraced deputy director Andrew McCabe, keen to talk up his new book, held forth in this vein on 60 Minutes and it reverberated internationally through the media. But it was not a stop- the-presses moment; there was no uproar, no gobsmacked talking heads realising Washington men in suits were ‘fessing up to planning to take down a president in a bureaucratic coup. Right-wing media has been shouting about this scandal for two years, and have been routinely ignored by a scoffing mainstream media. Now here it was being openly admitted, yet still, somehow, no big deal.
In an era when dressing up as a member of another race or a sexual overture made 30 years ago or using the wrong pronoun can get you sacked or disgraced, it is somehow OK to talk about overthrowing a president and no one is even shocked? Dogs, not barking much?
Just check the placid tone of some of the headlines: CNN: ‘McCabe says Rosenstein raised topic of removing Trump’; NY Times: ‘McCabe says Justice Department had discussions about pushing Trump out’; NPR radio: ‘McCabe feared cover-up of Russia probe’.
In truth, the mainstream media could hardly keep denying a Deep State conspiracy to get rid of Trump, when an FBI head confesses as much on TV. So they did the next best thing and downplayed it, treating it as business as usual, as something justifiable. But make no mistake, this is a hinge point in the narrative. From now on, the fact of an organised undermining and resistance to Trump and his agenda within the Washington elites, both before and after the 2016 election, can no longer be denied. Needless to say, this is not how bureaucratic elites or power transfers are meant to work in developed Western democracies. This is the stuff of spy novels and banana republics.
Just after Trump was elected, he tweeted that Obama was wiretapping him, a claim then greeted with thunderous derision. FBI director James Comey flat out denied it. A mere two years on, after nearly two dozen firings, ‘retirements’ and removals of key intelligence officials, we now know that several Trump campaign members, including sometime campaign chief Paul Manafort and bit player Carter Page, were indeed spied upon by the FBI, and by extension, as every conversation involves at least two people, the whole Trump campaign. The FBI secured multiple warrants to spy on American citizens, using as ‘evidence’ a still-unverified dossier created by ex-UK spy and Trump-hater Christopher Steele. This dirt-sheet was a piece of opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, through the lobbying firm Fusion GPS, and formed the basis for the Mueller Russia collusion probe, and many media leaks besides. A stonewall of denials met every hint that this disgraceful episode occurred as outlined above but these facts are no longer contested. Enough documentary evidence is now available that key players, such as McCabe, have moved on to justifying themselves – and making the cash to cover their legal expenses. Hence his recent saturation appearances on the talk circuit, and outlandish assertion that Trump was ‘a possible Russian asset’.
However, the evidence was winkled out in dribs and drabs, over such a long period of time, from so many different players in so many different forums, with such masterly exploitation of bureaucratic delays and processes, that the ideas only slowly percolated into general knowledge, bypassing the outrage that would have accompanied a quick revelation of the truth. This stonewalling also ensured a level of complexity that lost most casual observers. As a tactic to defuse political damage, it has been superbly effective.
Moreover, this drip-drip of data allowed full and frequent reiterations of defensive justifications by a complicit and sympathetic media: Orange Man bad; stolen election; Russia collusion; obstruction of justice. Turns out, if you give a dog a bad name, you can kick it down the street quite a way and people don’t mind so much. So now we have got to the point where a former FBI deputy director can confess to investigating the options for ousting a sitting president, with fellow senior bureaucrats in other agencies, and still be home in time for tea, ready to jump back onto chat shows the next day.
It may be that the Mueller investigation will shortly provide the bombshell missing evidence of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign, but there’s no sign of that. I agree with the ex-FBI lead investigator Peter Strzok, (he whose near-demonic facial contortions transfixed one congressional hearing, as shown in Google images): ‘My gut sense and concern is there’s no big there there.’ And Democrats are busily lowering expectations of the Mueller report, always a giveaway.
I fear there is another reason why the dogs didn’t bark in this case. Our culture has become so self-centred, so relativistic in its values, that if something seems reasonable from a particular point of view, especially one to which we are sympathetic, we let it pass. As Andrew Bolt says, it is not the principle, it is the side that matters. With absolute values, it is far harder to contravene accepted standards and still pretend one is in the right, however tempting the prospect.
So it is that fired FBI director James Comey can entitle his book A Higher Loyalty, effectively admitting his own allegiance was not to mere US law but to his own values. McCabe’s book is The Threat – How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terrorism and Trump. Loyalty? Protecting America? Bollocks. These elitist Deep Staters are scrambling to justify their actions in undermining and plotting to destroy a presidency. It is not alright.