Michael Novakhov’s favorite articles – 11:51 AM 2/2/2023
The New Republic
Of course, the timing of revelations like this is always an issue (such as in this case, the fact it awaited the transition to a new party in control of the House), but the arrest of perhaps the most consequential person at the FBI, Charlie McGonigal, for ostensible espionage on behalf of a hostile foreign power, the Russians he was supposed to be in charge of stopping, is shaping up to be perhaps the story of the century.
Hardly mentioned for this aspect in the coverage of his arrest this week is the extensive documentation via Twitter by highly-credible Presidential historian Michael Beschloss. It is drawing major attention for its amazing claim of the central role of McGonigal, acting as an insider Russian agent, to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Namely, if Beschloss is to be believed (and there is no reason not to), McGonigal’s elevation to a critical slot at the highest level of the FBI just weeks before the November 2016 election was pivotal in the last-minute decision by FBI Director James Comey to announce the relaunch of his investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails that threw her otherwise certain election in favor of GOP candidate Donald Trump at the proverbial 11th hour.
Comey’s inexplicable decision marked one of the most egregious cases of an intelligence agency’s intervention into a presidential election in history, one which subjected the nation and the world into its greatest crisis ever in the form of the four years of chaos the was the Trump presidency and that still represents the nation’s biggest threat to its democracy since the Civil War.
Beschloss has not minced his words in this. The arrest of McGonigal for acting as the agent of a hostile foreign power at the top of the FBI is the stuff of perhaps the most remarkable espionage case ever, one which, if true, has altered the course of history in favor of Russia’s Vladimir Putin against the strategic interests of the U.S. It has been documented that Trump was Russia’s chosen agent of influence at the top of the U.S. government since 1987, and what he has done to weaken the Western Alliance as the American president has been perhaps irreversible, much less how he disenfranchised the American public since he was declared the winner of the presidential election in November 2016 despite coming up almost three million votes short in the popular vote, and continually insisting he won the 2020 election despite coming up over seven million votes short.
Perhaps this explains the historical essay that appeared in this Monday’s Washington Post that argued strangely that America’s strategic disadvantages since the 1930s only made it stronger. Are we supposed to believe that being wounded by McGonigal’s treachery only strengthened the U.S., notwithstanding the impact of Trump’s presidency?
No, the McGonigal arrest is hopefully only the first step in the Justice Department’s revelations about how Putin’s counterintelligence operations in the U.S. have brought our nation so close to ruin in a sequence of events that have damaged us and that remain far from over. The sabotage of the American national interest was greater than anything the Rosenbergs did in the 1940s that led to their capital punishment.
Curiously, this has now just begun to come to light just weeks after the Democrats had to relinquish power in the House to weaken their ability to bring the full consequences of this to the American public.
Beschloff tweeted that, as is entirely relevant, Trump attorney Rudy Guliani “boasted late in Fall 2016 presidential campaign about the contacts with the FBI’s New York field office and later said publicly that (FBI) director James Comey had responded to ‘pressure of a group of FBI agents.’”
In the final days of the 2016 campaign, Trump surrogate Giuliani said publicly that “help is on the way” for Trump. “He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about,” Giuliani said.
McGonigal resigned from the FBI in 2018 after his damage was done and he faced internal audits that were beginning to show over $200,000 in unaccounted for funds to him.
In the course of writing two books on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the same question occurred to me again and again: How is it possible that I knew all sorts of stuff about Donald Trump, and the FBI didn’t seem to have a clue? Or if they did, why weren’t they doing anything with it?
Specifically, I knew that:
- Starting in 1980, an alleged “spotter agent” for the KGB began cultivating Trump as a new asset for Soviet intelligence.
- The Russian mafia laundered millions of dollars through Donald Trump’s real estate by purchasing condos in all-cash transactions through anonymous corporations that did not disclose real ownership.
- Trump Tower was a home away from home for Vyacheslav Ivankov, one of the most brutal leaders of the Russian mafia, and at least 13 people with known or alleged links to the mafia held the deeds to, lived in, or ran alleged criminal operations out of Trump Tower in New York or other Trump properties.
- Trump was some $4 billion in debt when the Russians came to bail him out via the Bayrock Group, a real estate firm that was largely staffed, owned, and financed by Soviet émigrés who had ties to Russian intelligence and/or organized crime.
Much of my material came from FBI documents. A lot came from open-source databases. It made no sense. There was an astounding amount of data on the public record. The FBI had launched enormous investigations of the Russian mafia in the 1980s. They had staked out a New York electronics store that was a haven for KGB officers. They knew that’s where the Trump Organization bought hundreds of TV sets. They had their eyes on Ivankov and other Russian mobsters who were denizens of Trump’s casinos and bought and sold his condos through shell companies. They had to know that Trump laundered money for and provided a base of operations for the Russian mafia, which was, after all, a de facto state actor tied to Russian intelligence. They had to know that the Russians repeatedly bailed Trump out when he was bankrupt. They had to know that Russia owned him.
I’m well aware of the strict secrecy that accompanies ongoing investigations as a matter of procedure. But once the Mueller Report was finally released, it became crystal clear that Robert Mueller’s investigation dealt only with criminal matters, not counterintelligence. Trump had been thoroughly compromised by Russia and was a grave threat to national security. But the FBI wasn’t doing anything about it!
One reason for that may have been that on far too many occasions, FBI men in sensitive positions ended up on the take from the very people they were supposed to be investigating. And on January 23, a bomb dropped: We learned that the latest of these is Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI in New York, who ended up working for billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a major target in the Trump Russia investigation. McGonigal was indicted in Manhattan on charges of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions, and other counts relating to his alleged ties to Deripaska. He was also indicted in Washington, where he was accused of concealing $225,000 he allegedly received from a New Jersey man employed long ago by Albanian intelligence.
McGonigal has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
McGonigal’s troubles began in late 2018, after his wife found out about his girlfriend, Allison Guerriero, who did not know that he was still married. “I was shocked,” Guerriero said, in an interview with Mattathias Schwartz for Business Insider. “I was very much in love with him, and I was so hurt.”
A few months later, Guerriero wrote an angry email about McGonigal to the man who had introduced them as a couple—William Sweeney, who just happened to be assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York City office. On a number of occasions, Guerriero had seen McGonigal leave huge amounts of cash around the house. At first, she thought it must be “buy money” for a sting operation or some other FBI procedure. Then she became suspicious. Among other things, she told Sweeney to look into McGonigal’s dealings in Albania, where McGonigal had traveled extensively and participated in transactions that later appeared in his indictments.
McGonigal was not just another FBI agent. His résumé included work on the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning, as well as a search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA. While working at FBI headquarters in Washington, he is reported to have played a role in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, later dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane. Though he was not assigned to that operation when he moved to New York, running FBI counterintelligence in New York is a very special, highly sensitive position that affords unquestioned access to a spectacular array of international elites as well as highly sought-after information.
Similarly, Oleg Deripaska is not just another oligarch. Having emerged victorious from the brutal Aluminum Wars as a vital functionary of the Kremlin, he played a key role in financing Putin’s efforts to take over Ukraine from within via a political operation directed by Paul Manafort that put Putin surrogate Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine presidency in 2010. Manafort is alleged to have funneled $75 million into offshore accounts in return for his efforts.
What could be more perfect? Having installed a Putin surrogate in the Ukrainian presidency, in 2016, Manafort repeated that feat on a much bigger stage, as campaign manager guiding Trump into the White House. As Yale professor Timothy Snyder, a close observer of Ukraine, points out, “Russia was backing Trump in much the way that it had once backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.”
Which brings us back to McGonigal. After assuming his new job in October 2016, just a month before the election, he would have been in a position to undermine the bureau’s investigation into Deripaska and Manafort and to sabotage those investigations with disinformation. Similarly, he would have been in a position to leak the information about Anthony Weiner’s laptop that led to the reopening of the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the election. Finally, he was in a position to have been a source behind the false exculpatory news published by The New York Times on October 31, 2016, a week before the election, with the headline that seemed give to Trump a clean bill of health: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”
Of course, McGonigal wasn’t the only FBI official who went over to the dark side. In 1997, four years after he had retired and returned to private practice, FBI Director William Sessions traveled to Moscow and alerted the world to the horrifying dangers of the brutal Russian mafia. A decade later, however, Sessions had no qualms about taking on as a client Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich, the so-called “Brainy Don” behind the Russian mafia, whom the FBI had put on its “Ten Most Wanted” list.
Sessions’s successor as FBI director, Louis Freeh, followed a similar path. His pro-Putin benefactor was Prevezon Holdings, the giant real estate firm that won international attention in 2008 when Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky investigated a tax fraud case involving Prevezon. For his efforts on behalf of Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management, Magnitsky was arrested, imprisoned, assaulted repeatedly, and beaten to death.
As FBI director, Freeh had warned that Russian organized crime posed a grave threat to the United States that far transcended mere criminality. It is not clear how much he was paid by Prevezon after he switched sides, but Freeh later bought a $9.38 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, just a 10-minute drive from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
Then there was the late James Kallstrom, who ran the FBI’s New York office in the mid-’90s and oversaw successful investigations into both the Italian Mafia and later the Russian mob. Kallstrom had developed close friendships with two key players in the Trump-Russia saga. He worked closely with then–U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudy Giuliani in the investigation of the Cosa Nostra network that led to the famed Mafia Commission Trial of 1985–1986. Going even further back, Kallstrom had also been friends with Donald Trump since around 1973, when Kallstrom was putting together a Trump-funded parade in New York to honor Vietnam veterans.
“We just got to be friends,” said Kallstrom in a 2020 interview as the Trump reelection campaign was gearing up. (The interview was done for a 2020 documentary by David Carr-Brown about Trump and the FBI called An American Affair: Donald Trump and the FBI.)
“I went to a few dinners with him, we talked quite often. He was very, very supportive of the bureau. We lose an agent, or somebody gets shot up, he was always there to pay for the food or whatever it took.”
According to The New York Times, Kallstrom had founded the Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation, a nonprofit that got more than $1.3 million from Trump, a strikingly generous offering from the usually parsimonious real estate magnate. Under Kallstrom’s aegis, the New York office became known as Trumpland. “I would say we were associates who liked each other,” Kallstrom added in the film. “He [Trump] would call me periodically and try to boost my morale, and then I’d call him when he was in the news and try to boost his morale. But he’s basically a very, very good person and with a big heart that does a lot of things, 90 percent of which nobody knows about. I mean, we stay in touch even today.”
But Trump being Trump, loyalty and generosity came with strings attached. “He [Trump] cultivated FBI people,” says Jeff Stein, editor of the intelligence newsletter SpyTalk, in An American Affair. “And that’s well-known behavior by people who swim in dangerous waters. They want to have a get-out-of-jail card, and that get-out-of-jail is having friendships or being a good source for the FBI.”
Kallstrom insisted that Trump was not an FBI informant, but another agent told Stein that Trump was known within the bureau as a “hip pocket” source—that is, someone who was not officially a source and therefore not in the FBI’s files.
Nevertheless, Trump appears to have gotten exactly what he sought. As it happens, Kallstrom worked closely with McGonigal and cultivated friendships not just with Trump but also with Rudy Giuliani. Together, they are suspected of being party to an internal campaign just before the 2016 election that spurred FBI Director James Comey to publicly announce he was reopening his investigation into Clinton’s emails.
Ultimately, of course, America found out that none of Hillary’s emails were classified. The Times story on the subject was misleading at best. The “reopened” investigation was short-lived and appeared to reflect the wishful thinking of the pro-Trump leaker in the bureau, whether it was McGonigal or someone else. Likewise, the Times headline declaring “no link” between Trump and Russia seemed to reflect wishful thinking on the parts of Kallstrom, Giuliani, and McGonigal—not reality.
But the damage had already been done. When voters cast their ballots on November 8, they thought that the FBI had given Trump a clean bill of health but was still investigating Hillary. McGonigal and company may well have made the difference in tipping the election to Trump.
So in the end, the FBI failed miserably at documenting Trump’s four-decade relationship with the Russian mafia and Russian intelligence, and all the financial transactions between them. The bureau failed miserably when it came to assessing how the former president might be compromised.
As Adam Schiff, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Washington Post in 2019, “Just as a reminder, this all began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. So it began as a counterintelligence investigation, not as a criminal investigation.”
Which is a vital distinction. “It may not be a crime for a candidate for president to seek to make money from a hostile foreign power during an election and mislead the country about it,” Schiff added. “But the counterintelligence concerns go beyond mere violation of criminal law.
“They’re at one time not necessarily a criminal activity and at the same time potentially far more serious than criminal activity because you have the capacity to warp U.S. policy owing to some form of compromise.”
In other words, as the KGB and its successor agencies know all too well, intelligence operations are designed to operate within the law while exploiting the latitude afforded by lax regulations and lax enforcement.
A serious counterintelligence investigation, then, would presumably have asked how the KGB began its relationship with Trump and whether Trump had been compromised first by the Soviets and later by Russia. It would have asked how deeply Trump was indebted to the Russian mafia, because he had made a fortune by at the very least turning a blind eye as former Soviet officials laundered millions of dollars through his real estate. How much business had he done with operatives of Russian intelligence and/or the Russian mafia? Did Russia have kompromat on Trump? Was he a Russian asset? How far back did his relationship go? How much did he make laundering money for them? What about other members of his family, the Trump administration and campaign, other politicians?
All unanswered questions, leading to perhaps the biggest question of all: If the FBI won’t ask those questions, who will? It will be interesting to see whether they are answered when McGonigal come to trial or, perhaps, if he is the string that, when pulled, will unravel all sorts of unimaginable secrets.
Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, talks with Rachel Maddow about the shocking betrayal of U.S. national security alleged in the arrest of former F.B.I. official Charles McGonigal, and the potential impact on counterintelligence investigations and Americans’ confidence in federal law enforcement.
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The question of who becomes the president of the United States should be answered by voters, not federal agents.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
The Watergate Scandal was a high point of American journalism. Two dedicated young reporters from The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, brought down President Richard Nixon for his role in the coverup of the 1972 attempted break in of the Democratic Party headquarters by Republican operatives.
But the Watergate scandal also exemplifies another Washington tradition: cutthroat bureaucratic infighting.
One of Woodward’s key sources for Watergate stories was W. Mark Felt, a.k.a Deep Throat, the number two official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had been passed over for the top role after J. Edgar Hoover’s death. The job went instead to a hapless Nixon crony, L. Patrick Gray III, who later resigned after admitting to destroying documents related to the break-in.
Many in the Bureau took Nixon’s decision personally, according to Timothy Weiner’s Enemies: A History of the FBI, objecting that “Felt was Hoover’s rightful heir.”
“It hurt all of us deeply,” Charles Bolz, the former chief of the FBI’s accounting and fraud division told Weiner. “Felt was the one that would have been the Director’s first pick. But the Director died. And Mark Felt should have moved up right there and then. And that’s what got him into the act. He was going to find out what was going on in there. And, boy, he really did.”
The Watergate Scandal is the story of political corruption at the highest levels of the American government, and of the journalistic crusade that brought it to light. But it’s also a story of bureaucratic revenge, of what happens when the most powerful political leaders in the country antagonize officials in its premiere domestic intelligence agency. The latter part of the story is typically elided in retellings, precisely because of its disturbing implication that Nixon’s corrupt presidency might have survived had he read the politics of the FBI better.
FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reveal fresh details of the Bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server while secretary of state, and the subsequent leaks from Bureau sources casting suspicion on Clinton and defending Republican nominee Donald Trump from allegations of Russian influence, do more than threaten the Bureau’s reputation. They threaten American democracy as much as any of Trump’s authoritarian proposals.
Felt has gone down in history as an idealist lawman radicalized by Nixon’s lawlessness rather than a disgruntled federal official, but it’s possible he was simply both. Felt joined the FBI in 1942, and so was present for the Bureau’s worst illegal excesses––the warrantless break-ins, wiretaps and spying, the surveillance of the president’s political enemies––under Hoover, its longtime director. None of this bothered Felt––he considered Hoover a hero, even defending the FBI Director’s decision to spy on and attempt to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr. with the details of King’s extramarital affairs.
It’s no coincidence that several of the men who engineered the break-in were former Hoover-era FBI agents––they had the necessary experience in black bag jobs. “You are either going to have an FBI that tries to stop violence before it happens or you are not,” Felt told Face the Nation in 1976, defending his authorization of warrantless break-ins against the Weather Underground. “I don’t say it’s not legal, I say it’s extra-legal,” he explained.
Two years later, Felt and his deputy Ed Miller were under indictment for their involvement in “extra-legal” actions, swept up the post-Watergate and post-Vietnam backlash against unrestrained executive power. He was later pardoned, along with the Watergate burglars, by President Ronald Reagan, who argued that “America was at war in 1972.” Although the Vietnam War would rage until 1975, as Weiner notes, “the FBI’s targets were not agents of foreign powers.” The pardon was warranted simply on the grounds that Felt had described in 1976: The FBI was trying to protect the country, and so anything it did was justified.
The backlash against Nixon’s lawlessness helped lead to new and crucial restraints on the powers of the federal agencies charged with national security. But in recent years, technological advances, political shifts and the popular reaction to transnational Islamist terrorism have rendered many of those restraints obsolete. On Friday, Comey announced that the the Bureau was reviewing whether emails related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server might be preserved on the computer belonging to the former husband of a Clinton aide. That move, coming less than two weeks before the presidential election, suggests that some at the FBI once again feel untouchable.
There are several reasons why law enforcement agencies should not make sensitive political disclosures in close proximity to an election. The first is that investigations are not convictions, and such revelations necessarily create a presumption of guilt around the target of the disclosures. Another is that the FBI is given immense power to scrutinize the lives of American citizens, but that power is meant to help punish or prevent crimes, not to empower the Bureau to pursue its own political interests. Otherwise intelligence services would become a constituency elevated above the citizenry itself––with politicians currying their favor in order to ensure those agencies used their powers to their benefit and against their opponents. FBI agents are granted extraordinary authority to defend the Constitution, not to use investigations to manipulate American politics as they see fit.
Yet it should be no surprise that some at the FBI feel empowered to do just that. Fifteen years of war have eroded America’s civic culture, its incomplete commitment to religious and racial pluralism, and its concern for civil liberties. The Central Intelligence Agency tortured terrorism suspects, and not one official of any rank was held accountable, and not one court decision has determined their behavior was illegal. When the Senate investigated its actions, the CIA spied on Senate aides and then lied about doing so. The National Security Agency was revealed to have engaged in a massive warrantless spying operation that included surveillance on American citizens. But changes to NSA surveillance powers have been meager. Unarmed black men are killed in disproportionate numbers by police officers who are shielded by a legal standard that exonerates police officers who say they feared for their lives, no matter how absurd the circumstances.
All of these decisions are the result of effective political maneuvering by these entities themselves. It is common for Americans to treat law-enforcement officials as apolitical, the reality is that they represent political entities with institutional interests that sometimes clash with those of the citizenry they are empowered to serve.
Normal politics however, are distorted by the currents of wartime nationalism, which can make any criticism of the excesses of security officials seem disloyal if not seditious. National-security officials themselves, from the nation’s top spies to the most modest beat cop, warn that any effort to hold authorities accountable will lead to death and chaos––and they frequently retain popular support in doing so. Torture, warrantless spying, and murder might be against the law, but America’s security services are often above the law. It’s the only way they can protect you.
It is hardly inconceivable then, that some at the FBI would feel unconstrained by the Justice Department’s guidelines barring sensitive political disclosures in close proximity to an election––it is the logic of wartime nationalism that institutions charged with protecting the country disregard limitations on their power in the name of the national interest.
On Friday, Comey wrote in a letter to Congress that “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” Comey added that he was writing because “the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”
The emails reportedly came from the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the former congressman and husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Though it’s too early to be certain, none of the emails, according to multiple reports, come from Clinton herself. Nevertheless, Republicans quickly implied that a potential indictment of Clinton was in the cards, despite Comey’s own decision months ago that it was “not a close call” that Clinton’s handling of classified information did not merit criminal prosecution.
Pundits have speculated about whether Comey wrote his letter out of a sense of responsibility to update Congress because he had testified that the inquiry had concluded, because he is a partisan Republican who wants to see Donald Trump in the White House, or because he was trying to preempt the information from being leaked by a rogue FBI agent. But irrespective of what motivated Comey himself to act, it seems clear that key officials at the Bureau no longer feel that the rules against politicized disclosures apply to them.
Subsequent leaks from to the Wall Street Journal from agents frustrated by what they see as their superiors’ unwillingness to pursue criminal investigations into the Clinton Foundation (predicated, according to the New York Times, on an anti-Clinton book bankrolled by an organization co-founded by Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon) and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally, make it clear that there are officials at the Bureau who are not simply unopposed to casting suspicion on a presidential candidate days before an election, but are eager to do so. Not one of these probes has resulted in criminal charges, and it seems possible, even likely, that none of them will.
Since then, U.S. officials presumably frustrated by Comey’s actions have leaked to the press that Comey himself opposed revealing that the U.S. government believed Russia to be responsible for hacks targeting the Democratic Party because it was too close to the election and that the FBI has launched an inquiry into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign ties.
Conversely, after leaking to the WSJ about investigations into Clinton and her allies, FBI officials made the remarkable decision to tell the New York Times that the suspected Russian hacks were meant to “disrupt” the election, not help Trump, thereby neutralizing a common Democratic talking point against the Republican nominee. (It’s one thing to confirm facts surrounding a questionable story about a Trump server communicating with a Russian bank, it’s another to use one’s official status to blunt political criticism of the nominee’s foreign policy).
The point is not that some of these leaks are good and some of them are bad. The point is not that Clinton is innocent or not innocent, or that Trump is pro-Russian or anti-Russian. The point is that a presidential election should not depend on the ability of candidates to successfully intimidate or cultivate favor among American national-security agencies.
This outcome is neither surprising nor unforeseeable. In Federalist Number 8, Alexander Hamilton’s argument against having a standing Army, he notes that in nations beset by constant warfare, “the continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil.”
Furthermore, Hamilton writes, “The inhabitants of territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.”
Hamilton could not have foreseen the expansion of the national-security bureaucracy, both military and civilian, but he clearly saw its dangers. He was not evaluating the patriotism, or bravery, or commitment of those soldiers to their societies or to the rule of law. Hamilton saw the emergence of a caste system as the inevitable consequences of societies forever at war, one that could not be avoided by the noble intentions of those committed to defending those societies. The Bureau officials casting suspicion on Clinton days before an election doubtless feel like they are doing their duty by bringing their concerns directly to the public––but the point of the Justice Department rule on not interfering with elections is that it’s not their job to make those decisions.
What makes this situation all the more perilous is that one of the candidates who will try to prevail on November 8, Donald Trump has vowed to order U.S. armed forces to commit war crimes, to deport millions from the country at gunpoint, to bar members of a religious group from entering the U.S., and called to an end to criticism of police who kill unarmed civilians. He has also pledged to imprison the opposing candidate, refused to commit to honoring the election results if he loses, and praised despots who engage in violent political repression of their opponents, all while running on “law and order.” Despite these things, or more terrifying, because of them, he boasts the endorsement of unions representing police and immigration enforcement officers.
Trump’s campaign has not been devoid of criticism of law enforcement––far from it. Until last Friday, Trump was apoplectic over the FBI’s decision not to indict Clinton over her emails, charging the Bureau with corruption. If Trump wins on November 8, his lawless philosophy, under which the only failure of law enforcement that cannot be forgiven is the failure to crush his political enemies, and acts of state force can be justified on the basis of ethnic or religious background, also wins.
Clinton may prevail, despite the Bureau’s disclosures, official and otherwise. But absent the kind of overwhelming popular backlash that followed the Watergate scandal, the sort of tough, comprehensive evaluation of the agencies charged with public safety that they so clearly require will not be forthcoming. The last spate of investigations and reforms came when the Vietnam War was winding down. As long as the War on Terror continues, by any name, the nationalism it inspires will find expression in authoritarian impulses that threaten the constitutional democracy agencies like the FBI are sworn to preserve.
The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times
Center for European Policy Analysis