Victor Davis Hanson: FBI Should Be Broken Up, Agents Moved to Other Departments
“When you have an agency that has gone rogue and is interfering at the highest level of the country to affect an election; and the directors of those agencies are willing to alter or leak documents that they shouldn’t or lie under oath to federal investigators or lie to a committee by claiming amnesia; and they oversee a bureau that will wipe clean phone records that are under subpoena; or they will not prosecute one person, but they will another; then it’s institutionalized. And you’ve got to get rid of it.”
He’s the author of “The Dying Citizen” and “The Case for Trump.”
The FBI’s armed raid on Mar-a-Lago is unprecedented, Hanson says, and it’s the latest in a war being waged against the former president, from the Russia collusion hoax to impeachment proceedings against him—twice.
“We’re in a revolutionary cycle where the left has now said, under the pretext that Donald Trump is so extraordinarily threatening to the Republic, that it requires any means necessary to end him. And therefore we’re going to do things that are revolutionary.”
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Victor Davis Hanson, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Victor Davis Hanson:
Thank you for having me.
Victor, let’s start here. On August 8th, the FBI sends an estimated 30 officers to Mar-a-Lago, and spends 10 hours there. It is described as a raid. What was your initial reaction?
When I was watching it, my first reaction was that there have already been a lot of disagreements about archives. George W. Bush had one. He even nullified the archival law with an executive order, so as to not comply with it for a while. Barack Obama did not hand over what was requested. He resisted all Freedom of Information requests. I think he spent $30 or $40 million. So this was not new. They all do it, and you can see why they do it. You have a little note somebody writes you as a foreign dignitary. Does it belong to you or the government? So, I thought this was crazy. It can’t be like this. Nobody ever does this.
The second thing is this was part of a series of incidents, both against Trump and against people associated with Trump. If you want a lurid diary of Joe Biden’s and you’re in the FBI and you become a retrieval service for the Biden family, then you drag out James O’Keefe in his underwear. You go to Roger Stone’s house with a SWAT team. You put Peter Navarro in leg irons. You go to Rudy Giuliani’s office and mess it up. You send a message that we can come for you. If you have a diary that’s embarrassing, or if you have a laptop, we’re going to put it on ice before an election. So, it was part of that series done by an FBI and a DOJ that are out of control. They’re trying to send all of us a message; “We can do this, and nobody’s going to stop us from doing this, and you better make the necessary adjustments.”
The third thing I thought is, we’re 90 days from an election. Didn’t James Comey tell us that when he was investigating Hillary Clinton, he found thousands of emails that were classified. There was evidence that she took a hammer and broke up her devices and used a BleachBit program to bleach it. He basically said, “She did things that were wrong, but she’s a candidate. I’m not going to interfere in an election.”
Then I remember when they impeached Donald Trump, it was about a phone call, and the phone call was about the Biden family being very crooked. In the past, they were bragging about how they’ve interfered with an investigation of their son. We don’t want to give you a lot of money, because we can’t trust you because you tend to give favors to the Biden family in order that you continue to get aid. In fact, Joe Biden had bragged, “I stopped that aid.” And they impeached Trump. If you go back and look at the transcript, the reason they said they impeached him was that Joe Biden would be a likely candidate. Therefore, Donald Trump was using his office to preemptively hurt a possible candidate. So this is the locus classicus of everything, and there was not a word.
To your point, we have all these very known characters that have a huge antipathy towards former President Trump, like Andrew Cuomo who is saying there better be something good. Megan McCain is saying there better be something good. You better have the goods. I’ve seen that. There’s a lot of that from people that typically you don’t associate with those statements.
But they never say, “Or what? There better be something good or we’re going to do…what?” The “what” is interesting. When the Republicans take the House, and I think they will in November and assume power in January of 2000, are they going to have an article of impeachment against Merrick Garland? I don’t know. Will they impeach Joe Biden? They’re going to have to do something if that “what” is not answered.
This brings up a larger question. We’re in a revolutionary cycle where the Left has now said, on the pretext that Donald Trump is so extraordinarily threatening to the Republic, that it requires any means necessary to end him. Therefore, they’re going to do things that are revolutionary. What do I mean by that? They tried to do things legally or do things that were institutional. “Let’s get rid of the filibuster. Let’s pack the court. We’re going to bring in two more states. We’re going to have a national voting law. We’re going to get rid of the Electoral College.” None of that has worked.
Now they’re doing things extra-legally. What would those be? They’ve established a precedent that the House minority leader has no say about the nominations on a committee. The Speaker of the House says, “No, No, No. No one is going to be on the January 6th Committee and bother us unless they meet two criteria. They have to have impeached Donald Trump, and they have to be politically inert with no future in the Republican Party. Then, they can serve.”
They’re also saying, “If we don’t like the State of the Union address, we will tear it up on national TV. We will just tear it up.” Nancy Pelosi has told us, “We will just tear up the State of the Union.” They’ve never quite done this before. Andrew Johnson was the last time this happened, but he wasn’t going to be a two-term president. They are going to impeach a president in his first term the moment he loses the majority in the House. They’re going to impeach a president twice. They’re going to impeach a president when he is a private citizen and out of office.”
They have set a precedent. They’re not even talking about the Supreme Court. They’re going to set a precedent that the Senate minority leader is going to go to the Supreme Court doors and threaten by name a Supreme Court justice. “Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, you have sowed the wind; you will reap the whirlwind. You will not know what hit you,” so spoke Chuck Schumer. There’s a federal statute that says that people cannot go to the home of a federal justice and intimidate and threaten them for the purpose of altering their opinions and their rulings. That’s exactly what’s happened. Merrick Garland was nowhere to be seen. In fact, they even went to a restaurant to roust out Justice Kavanaugh. Is that what we want to do?
When the Republicans take office, are we going to be in a revolutionary tit-for-tat, or do the Republicans play by higher Marquess of Queensberry Rules? In other words, will Kevin McCarthy say, “I don’t like Joe Biden. It’s another one of his lying speeches. I’m tearing it up on national TV just to show you that you shouldn’t do this.” Or will he say, “Squad members? None of you are going to be on the committee. I’m sorry. But Nancy taught me a good rule that you’re just too troublesome and you would get in our way. So, none of you get to serve on a congressional committee.”
“By the way, it’s time to impeach Joe Biden. Take your pick. We can impeach him on destroying federal immigration law. He harassed individual citizens. He didn’t pay tax, we think, on money he gave Hunter, and he didn’t pay income tax money Hunter gave him. We’re going to investigate that. By the way, Joe, we’ll probably impeach you a second time. If the first one doesn’t work in conviction, we might do it when you become a private citizen and we might even have to go into one of your three homes.”
That’s what happened in the Roman Republic. It happened at the end of Athenian democracy. It happened in 1793 and 1794 regarding Napoleon and Germany. That’s what the Democrats have started. We’ll see how it plays out and whether they want it to play out. We’ll see whether the Republicans are going to be high-minded and not let it play out. They may feel they have to play it out to achieve deterrence, so that it never occurs again.
There are so many directions we can go here. Let me just start with some very simple ones. You laid out how this event relates to a series of other events. Let’s focus specifically on January 6th, what it symbolizes, and the whole January 6th committee. Is there a direct relationship between these two events?
I think there is. The January 6th committee, ostensibly, was a bipartisan select committee. Because we do this all the time in America, we know how it should operate. That is, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy meet, and depending on the size of the committee, they will say, “Here’s our seven Democrats. Here’s our six Republicans.” They get a team of lawyers, and they adduce evidence. They bring in witnesses. Usually the majority party presents them, and the minority party tries to tear them apart, and then they switch roles. Then, they go in front of the public and they argue in front of each other. Out of this, they distill the truth. They don’t know what the truth is. They’re inductive, or at least that’s the pretense. You had Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes dueling in the House Intelligence Committee to find out about what was going on with the Mueller investigation.
This committee doesn’t bear any resemblance to past procedure. There are no Republicans that are really Republicans on the committee. The votes are all unanimous. There is nobody who votes against them. The witnesses come in and they are told, “This is what we want to hear, even if it’s exactly the opposite of what you’ve tweeted or posted on social media. Are you going to do it, or do we have to cite you in contempt, or do we have to have a criminal referral that would cost you a lot of money?” These witnesses go in and then flip, or they contradict each other. There’s no cross examination. There’s no special counsel. There’s none of this. That’s the first problem with this revolutionary committee.
But the revolutionary committee says, “We must look at the rare occasions when people riot on iconic federal property. They went into the Capitol.” That is true, they did. “They desecrated the birthplace of democracy.” But on May 31st of 2020, there was a huge BLM mob and Antifa mob openly organized on social media. It flooded Lafayette Square. It scorched the iconic St. John’s Episcopal Church. It broke across the street. The Secret Service requested municipal police support. The mayor of Washington refused. They were ready to storm into the White House grounds to go on their intended targets: Donald Trump and the White House. He was frisked away by Secret Service agents and put into a secure bunker. The Washington Post and the New York Times sort of laughed about it in their headlines: “Trump scared. Trump fled.” About two weeks later, the vice-presidential candidate, Kamala Harris said, “This is not going to stop. This will not stop. It should not stop. It will not stop.”
“They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not going to stop. Everyone beware because they’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. Everyone should take note of that on both levels that they’re not going to let up, and they should not, and we should not.”
If this committee was really disinterested, it would say, “Here’s January 6th. But on May 31, 2020, who was behind the attempted storming of the White House, and trying to injure the president of the United States? Who wanted to go into the White House, which is just as iconic as the Capitol is? Who were the people who encouraged this? Who were the social media people that allowed this to happen? Who were the national political figures that egged this on?” They would use the same barometers that they are using on the January 6th event. But there is nothing. Yet, we know that in the summer of 2020 there were 35 people killed, $2 billion in damage, and 14,000 arrests. It dwarfed what happened during the January 6th event. But there is no investigation into any of this by the January 6th committee.
If you had one Republican member that was genuinely in the opposition, they would be asking questions. Michael Rosenberg is a Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times reporter. He says he knows more about January 6th than anybody. He was caught on tape telling James O’Keefe that the FBI informants were everywhere, and it was a joke. It was more like a party. It was not a systematic insurrection. Let’s bring him in and interview him. Who said that Officer Sicknick was murdered? That was a narrative. He was lying in state. Who said that? They knew that was false. He was not murdered. He died of natural causes. If you shoot an unarmed female military veteran of 105 pounds for the crime, which is a misdemeanor, ofbreaking a window and going into the Capitol, if you shot her and killed her, who was the officer? Why wasn’t his identity released? We always release the identity of officers when they shoot unarmed suspects. That’s just what the American system does. Who tamped that down and covered it up? We could have all of these questions, but here’s nothing.
Dick Cheney gave the game away. He did that two-minute campaign ad for his daughter, and they were so happy with it. They put it all over the internet. Remember, she’s the ranking Republican on the committee, so her ostensible purpose is to find out what happened. She should be saying, “We don’t know what happened, but that’s why I’m here. I want to know who was responsible. I don’t know, or I wouldn’t be on this committee.” But instead her father says, “There’s only one person that can stop Donald Trump. He’s an existential threat to the country. We’ve never seen anyone like this. Liz can do it. Liz is stopping Donald Trump every day.” So, he just admitted that her purpose was not to find out what happened. It was to be like some prosecutor out of Les Misérables, to be judge, jury, and executioner. It was to find him guilty in a deductive Stasi-like inquiry, which is what it is. We’re supposed to feel that she’s courageous.
The Left looks at all this and privately thinks they like it. They say, “Wow, we’re finally getting down to business. We’ve put on the brass knuckles. These guys are scared of us. We can SWAT-team them. We can haul them out in their underwear. We can put leg shackles on them. We can bankrupt them. We can make them look stupid. We can even raid Mar-a-Lago. We can even get into to Melania’s closet. This is great.” This is how they’re thinking. “We can excuse all the stuff on the media.” That’s where they are right now.
But they’re also a little scared, because they are wondering, “Maybe there’ll be a reaction to this in the midterm elections.” Because they’re not talking about inflation. They’re not talking about gas prices. They’re not talking about Afghanistan. They’re not talking about crime. They’re not talking about the open border. That’s what people are worried about, according to the polls.
Victor, I’m going to read something from an interview we did sometime ago. This was in November, 2020. It’s actually kind of remarkable because they were tracking the presidency and the next subsequent presidency. This is in November 2020. You said, “I’m really worried because no president has ever been systematically attacked like this, and no president has ever fought so fiercely in return. So we’ll see what happens. Donald Trump was some kind of talisman or he was some kind of touchstone where everything that he got near revealed the true essence of what we all suspected but we knew would never be revealed. He was a cipher.” I don’t know if you remember this.
Yes, I do. He was a magnet that attracted all of their toxicity. It was pretty amazing to see people reveal themselves in such a way. It was remarkable of the Never Trumpers. Take a look at Charles Sykes or David Frum or Bill Kristol or Jonah Goldberg. There was nothing wrong with those people saying, “This time around I feel that Trump’s character is a little bit too much, so I’m going to not vote this time.” But they didn’t do that. They got obsessed with him. The hatred of Trump, which I guess was related to his culture and his crudity that was antithetical to what they thought they were. They became so obsessed that they began, almost in an autoimmune stage, to reject everything that they had ever stood for.
Now they’re tweeting or they’re messaging about how great Joe Biden is, and abortion should be on demand. It’s almost like he’s given these people a Trump elixir, a truth serum. Then you want to say, “Why were you sending us letters for 30 years that said, ‘Give Bill Kristol money. Give the Weekly Standard money. Give National Review money. Give me money because we’re the bulwarks of the conservative movement.'” Then when you don’t get your way, why don’t you just say, “I’m going to sit this one out.” You hate everything that you once stood for. Because after all, Donald Trump’s agenda is being embraced by every single Republican candidate. They don’t find it extreme, and the people don’t find it extreme. Yet, it’s almost what the Never Trumpers always wanted. So it begs the question, “Is this where they always wanted to be? Have they completely flipped out? What’s the ability of Trump to make people go stark raving mad and embarrass themselves?”
I came across a thread by a man who identifies as someone who changed his mind about what he saw in America. He was a lifelong Democrat from what I understand, and essentially the thing that made him change his mind was part of the BLM activity in the summer of 2020. You might remember that there was this moment where there were something like a thousand or several thousand health professionals…
I remember there were 1,200 of them.
… 1,200 of them, who essentially said that racism is a much bigger public health issue than the virus. This was at the height of let’s call it the COVID insanity. He said, “That’s when the blinders on my eyes came off.”
I wrote a column about that. Basically it was you’d better mask and stay inside your home and don’t go out. But anybody who’s going out to protest in the ranks with Antifa and BLM, you can be excused, even though you’re going to be in a phalanx, and even though you’re going to be shouting. These are the classic environments that spread the virus. because you won’t be masked and you won’t be socially distanced. Because we’re health professionals, we can say it’s more important to your health to be able to express yourself than to sit.
That was an iconic moment, because most people said, “Well, maybe this funeral or visiting my mom is important, too. So, maybe I should just go to this funeral if that’s what’s happening now with these rules. Or maybe I should celebrate on the 4th of July, that’s a very important moment.” So everybody had those moments. That so-called health care advisory really took the curtain away from what was going on. The more they kept talking about the science, the more you knew they were talking about the science, because they didn’t believe in the science. That was Dr. Fauci and all the rest of them. They told us so many different narratives on masking, on herd immunity, and on the origins of the virus. It was just, “Whatever particular narrative is useful this week, we’re going to promulgate it.”
Just to go back to Theo Jordan, that’s his name, on this thread that I mentioned. He surmised that the inordinate focus on Trump and MAGA has become this thing with the Left, but most people actually believe in America First.” It’s almost like they’re trying to conflate these two things. But there’s a globalist or some other agenda with some of the items that you described.
So they had to put an adjective on it to assuage your worry. Everybody said, “Yes, make America great. That’s what we all want to do, America First.” Then they said, “Okay, that didn’t work. So we’re going to call it Ultra-MAGA. You guys are Ultra-MAGA, meaning you’re an extreme version, and therefore, that’s bad.” But they all say, “America come home, make America right.” Every party does that. It was just that Donald Trump’s fingerprints were on that expression. They tried to connect him with Hitler and Mussolini and all of that.
All of this is a pattern throughout our institutions. This discussion could be paralleled with the Pentagon,the CIA, the FBI, the IRS, and the DOJ. All of these institutions are staffed in this very small area in Washington by people whose spouses, parents, siblings, and children are all involved, and they all have the same values. They run this system, and they’re very far Left. They say they’re liberal, but they’re not. They’re the revolutionary Left. They despise people in the center of this country. They despise conservatism. Because they’re morally superior and intellectually superior, they feel that they have a right to use any means necessary for the exalted ends. And we know what the exalted ends are: climate change, mass transit, get everybody into a high rise, critical race theory, and ESG corporate policy and investment. It’s promulgated every year from Davos, Switzerland.
I was just reviewing Dr. Aaron Kheriaty’s new book that will be coming out. It’s called “The New Abnormal,” and looks at the biosecurity state and how authoritarian public health fits into all this. To use the term, this really would be a great reset for them if things go this way.
What’s tragic about all of this is they say that we must take these extraordinary means for these existential threats, but they really don’t care about the existential threats. We all know what they are. We have a rogue lab in Wuhan, China, where there is no security that is comparable to the West. Yet, they have imported Western instrumentation protocols and knowledge, but without the hundred years of give-and-take, audit and learning, and trial and error. It’s like putting a firecracker in the hands of a 12-year-old. That’s what’s happening at Wuhan. They are continuing to do gain-of -function research under the auspices of the Chinese military.
What happened in Wuhan? We know from Steven Quay and others that its genetic pattern, its ability to mutate, and its ability to confuse the immune system is extraordinary. It was known to be extraordinary by the Frankensteins who created it. We know it’s going to happen again. It’s happened before, it happened now, and it will happen again. Nobody’s worried about it. In fact, the Western elite is more worried about not accusing China of what they know is to be true. There are so many people; the Bloombergs, the Bill Gates, the LeBron James, all across the spectrum that have investments in China and a vested interest in China. So they’re not talking about that.
We know that when you’re dependent on oil, it usually means you’re going to go into the Middle East. It means you’re going to have an optional war, and we know it’s not going to turn out well. But from 2017 to 2020 we went full blast up to 13 million barrels domestically, and we were scheduled to go to 16. So, we didn’t go into the Middle East. We were the largest gas and oil producer in the world. We did it much more environmentally prudently than any other country. We earned foreign exchange. We lowered the price for our own country. It was a win-win situation. We hurt Russia. We hurt Saudi Arabia. We hurt Iran. We hurt Venezuela by creating lower prices.
Yet, here we are put here today, and deliberately so, by the Biden administration. That is an existential threat. We know that our Pentagon has, for a variety of reasons, lost deterrent. By that, I mean it is no longer able to scare somebody into not doing something stupid. So every day, a Putin or a Xi in China says, “We would like to do this, but in the cost/benefit analysis, does it work out for us if the United States were to be unpredictable and react?” Now they think, “No, they’re not going to react.” They got humiliated in Afghanistan. They left $80 billion in equipment, a billion dollar embassy, a $300 million base, and had 13 people killed. They didn’t even worry about their people very much. They killed a bunch of civilians and said it was a righteous strike. It was a mess.
Joe Biden came in. The first thing he did in Ukraine, he wanted to airlift Zelenskyy out and abandon the country. He wouldn’t sell them Javelin missiles. So Putin says, “They’re not going to do it. Their economy’s a mess. Their crime’s spiking. They’re fighting over this stupid critical race theory. They don’t react to what we do.” So Putin went in and Xi says, “Well, why would we worry about the U.S. military when the chairman of the joint chiefs called up our PLA guy and said, ‘Hey, I’m Dr. Milley, basically I’m a doctor. I’ve just diagnosed our president who I thought was an isolationist, but maybe he’s an interventionist within nuclear weapons. But if he is, I will call you in advance and warn you that I’m not going to fulfill an order.'” You know what the Chinese said to themselves, “This is bizarre. Can this be true? Is this guy for real? Because if you said that to me, I’d shoot you.” They couldn’t believe it. So they had nothing but disdain for our military.
Then, they looked at all of our retired generals. There was a whole slew of them that said that their president was a Nazi or a Mussolini. They looked at all the military. It was just a broken record of the military not living up to its prior responsibilities. It had become a social justice institution that the Left has adopted as a pet. It can allow transgendered surgeries, or women being pregnant flying planes, or whatever the current agenda is. They can do it without legislative give-and-take, or chain of command. And they love that. Everybody knows that.
Then you could see that when Lloyd Austin and Milley went after white males and said they were prone to white rage, and they were going to ferret out white privilege. As somebody who writes essays on Afghanistan and Iraq, I can tell you that it was white male mostly from the rural middle class or the suburbs who died there. About 75 per cent of all deaths were white males, and in Iraq, it was about 74 per cent.
I said this instantaneously as I watched him, “You’d better be careful. You are accusing an entire demographic of assumed racism. You’re asking this demographic to read Professor Kendi who says it’s okay to be racist to stop racists.” With this demographic, their great-grandparents were in Korea. Their grandparents were in the first Gulf War. Their parents were in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, they are 18-years-old, and they’re dying at double their numbers in the demographic, and you’re berating them. I thought, “If you continue this, it’s not going to work.”
Two weeks later, I looked at the U.S. Army’s recruitment level. They had only achieved 40 per cent of their goal. Then I looked at the breakdown of the Army’s data. It said that traditionally 50 per cent of all recruits have a parent who was in the military. In other words, it’s handed down in a particular group. Now, it was only 13 per cent.
The reason I was worried about this, because when I gave lectures, people would ask questions completely off the topic of the lecture. They would say, “Mr. Hansen, I have a question. I know it’s off topic. You talked about the administrative state, but my son wants to join the Marines or the U.S. Army. He wants to be a Ranger, or he wants to be in the 10th Mountain. I don’t want him to go.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because he’s got a target on his back. They will make him go to a workshop. They will indoctrinate him. Even if they don’t do that and he survives, they’re going to send him over to some place like Afghanistan where he will have to shoot somebody and get killed. When it’s all said and done, they’ll just pull out and say it was a waste.”
When you look at the Reagan Libraries, often they have a poll: Do you have confidence in the U.S. military? It’s usually 70 per cent. This time it was 45 per cent. Do you have great confidence in the efficacy of the military? Only 45 have confidence. I didn’t do that. Critics didn’t do that. They did it to themselves because of the woke agenda.
Part of the woke agenda is actually the destruction of Western civilization. So that would seem to be on point, if that’s indeed the case.
When you say Western civilization, you mean that largely affluent upper-middle class whose children go to universities, and who themselves are teachers and professionals. They have decided that in their cultural milieu, they are not just offering constructive criticism. They are hypercritical of their own culture and of Europe’s culture. They are hypercritical in the sense that they express that by supporting tearing down statues, renaming buildings, cancel-culturing certain people, and pressuring Disney to do this, or American Airlines to do that. Yes, that’s what they’re doing.
The question is, why are they doing it? I think partly it’s because the Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of Harry Truman, JFK, or even Bill Clinton. It is the manifestation of globalization and enormous wealth that we could have never even imagined. Jeff Bezos can say, “I’m going to give $100 million dollars to CNN contributor Van Jones, and $100 million dollars to celebrity chef, Jose Andrés. Mark Zuckerberg can say, “I want everybody to think right. I want them to think correctly. I’m going to give $419 million to the election effort in certain precincts.”
There’s a staggering amount of wealth that’s gravitated to the Left. These people are exempt from any worry about shelter or food. They’ve got Gulfstreams, they’ve got limos, and they’ve got mansions. They don’t need anymore, and they still have money. They couldn’t possibly spend it in a million years. So, they’re pouring it into critical race theory, BLM, and climate change. The Right and the center have never seen anything like it. This is not the limousine-liberal Kennedy family. These are radicals.
To ascertain their motives, we would have to draw on psychology. They’re largely from white or Asian groups, and they associate with white or Asian groups. They live in homes whose square footage is at odds with their climate change bromides. They fly on private jets, which you’re not supposed to do because of their huge footprint. They hate charter schools and school choice, but yet their children are all in academies. Almost all of them are in private schools. In other words, their lives are completely antithetical to the egalitarian rhetoric that they live by.
How you square that circle is to virtue signal. They say you’re a racist. They support trans issues. But then in their own life, they’re traditionally materialistic and obsessed with status. They want their kids to go to Stanford. They want their kids to go to Princeton. When you see them on TV, they have a bunch of titles. They love to have alphabet letters. “I was vice president of CBS News or my brother works for so and so…” They love that type of name dropping.
Yet, they’re revolutionaries because of all this money at their disposal, and they don’t know what to do with it. You can’t suggest that they are racist or segregationist or elitist or privileged, which is clearly what they are. Because they never say to Manual Dominguez, “Hey, Manuel. You came over and cleaned my house. You did a great job. Let’s go have a beer together.” Or they never say to Dolores Espinoza, “You cooked breakfast for the kids today. Hey, we got an hour. Let’s go to Starbucks together and have coffee. Then I’ll come over to your house tonight for dinner.” They never do any of that.
Yet, they feel terrible that they don’t do any of that. So, they square that circle with abstract advocacies that hurt the one group that they despise. They just absolutely hate the middle class. It lacks the romance of the poor, and it lacks their own taste and culture. They’re up in the attic, and they don’t want any guy with a Winnebago or jet ski trying to climb up that ladder to join them. That’s how they look at America.
We’ve just connected a whole bunch of different kinds of realities into the same pot. A lot of people are saying that this raid on Mar-a-Lago is actually crossing the Rubicon. It’s something we’ve never seen before, not just actually, but also symbolically. How do you see that?
When somebody says, “We’ve never seen a Mar-a-Lago raid before,” I always ask myself questions when I hear these sweeping generalizations. As a classical philologist, when somebody would say, “Xenophon uses the subjunctive and secondary clauses when he should use the optative mood.” Then, I would say, “Okay, let me look at all the speeches of Xenophon’s and let me look at the mood of the speaker to see if that’s true.” So, let’s look at this. There have been 45 presidents. How many have had their private residences raided when they went out of office? Zero.
There has been a dispute with Donald Trump. How many disputes have there been? Was there a dispute with Barack Obama? Yes, there was a dispute about records, and he sued repeatedly about freedom of information. Was there many disputes with George Bush? Was there a dispute about Bill Clinton? There is no need to go there. They even accuse him of taking things out of the White House. Was there a dispute with the elder Bush? Yes. So, it never happened before, and yet we have all of these disputes.
Then if it never happened before, how were these disputes adjudicated? The archivists came out to Mar-a-Lago in June. The president’s lawyers meet with them, they laugh, they have a beer, or I don’t know what. Then, they say, “Donald Trump, I know the Australian prime minister handed you a note saying, ‘Hey, Donald, go MAGA.’” You think he would want that in the archives? That was a private note. They say, “He handed it to you through the window of the limo. It wasn’t official. We think it was. Maybe historians would like to see his close relation.” Trump said, “No, no. He told me.” That’s the kind of stuff they did. So this taking it to the militarization level where you’re actually going to get armed people and go into the president’s residence. This has never happened before.
The second thing is, is this a one-off incident? Are there other things that they have done? Well, yes. Donald Trump was president for 11 days and they introduced articles of impeachment. Rosa Brooks, an ex-Obama lawyer in the Pentagon, wrote in Foreign Policy, a very distinguished foreign policy magazine, “We’ve got to get rid of him. There’s only three ways to do it. You’ve got the 25th Amendment, impeachment, too slow. Military coup? Yes, military coup.” Then we had the Mueller investigation. Then we had the two impeachments. Then we had the Alpha Bank fiasco. We had all of these psycho-dramas. It never stopped.
So that gives us context that there is a war on him. Then, we say to ourselves, “Is this something that has happened? Is it symmetrical? In other words, have people had charges or insinuations that they did stuff to papers or archives? Sandy Berger, did he take stuff and put it in his pants? Hillary Clinton, did she BleachBit? Eric Holder, the first attorney general, did he refuse to give any of the materials about Fast & Furious when he was censored and held in contempt by Congress? The answer is they all ended peaceably. Did anybody get mad when Loretta Lynch happened to bump into Bill Clinton on the Arizona airport tarmac, so they could find out off the record what to do about Hillary, and make sure she wouldn’t be charged? Did anything happen? No. So this is different. It’s a war on a particular figure. You ask, “Why him? They hated the Bushes, but they never did this.”
The answer is he’s never held political office. He was the first person who didn’t play by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. He gave it back in kind. He used a vocabulary and a bearing and mannerisms that were considered un-presidential. He was very popular to a demographic that people consider uneducated, retrograde, racist, sexist, protectionist, xenophobe, and irredeemable, you name it. Just think of the adjectives that Biden and Obama and Hillary and John McCain and Peter Strzok have used; crazies, dregs, chumps, clingers, irredeemable, deplorables, or smelly people at Walmart. That CNN reporter said, “I got more teeth than everybody at the Trump rally,”
Trump was a representation of that demographic, and that’s who they hate. They just despise those people. They think, “We would be accepted by Europe. We could be kind of a big EU member. The UN would love us. But we’ve got 150 million to 200 million losers. What do we do with them? Who are these people?” That’s how these elites feel about America.
I’m going to read you something from one of our columnists and commentators, Marc Ruskin. He was a 27-year FBI veteran. He was undercover for a long time, plus a former federal prosecutor. This is what he knew about this FBI raid, “The disregard for traditional norms and apparent lack of concern with the appearance of impropriety is indicative of an abandonment of even a veneer of independence and objectivity.” Of course, you’re speaking to this. I say this knowing a number of people in the FBI who I value and respect deeply. What does this say about the FBI right now?
The FBI’s narrative on the conservative side is something like this. There’s a toxic hierarchy of careerists that run the FBI. They rotate in and out of the FBI, and they go into private enterprise. They condition or massage their ideology to fit their own career trajectory. They want to be on a corporate board, or they want to be a lobbyist, or they want to be a lawyer. They get great jobs, and they want to be loved by the media. If you’re Andrew McCabe or James Comey, you want to be on MSNBC as an analyst. But they don’t represent the rank and file, because we all, like you, know them and we love them, sort of.
But my problem with that is who were the people down there in Michigan that were hiring FBI informants to egg on a bunch of nuts to kidnap the governor of Michigan? Who was Peter Strzok? Who was Lisa Page? Who was Kevin Clinesmith? He was a lowly lawyer that felt that he could just doctor with impunity a federal FISA application. When I look at these people that do these things, who are these people? They sent Peter Strzok over to interview Flynn. I don’t believe it’s just the hierarchy. I believe the hierarchy has permeated its values all the way through the FBI. There’s wonderful people there, but they understand that they’re not going to be promoted or recognized unless they toe a particular line. So, yes, I’m worried about it.
Do we have a lot of investigatory intelligence police bureaus? Yes. So why not break it up? We could take all of those issues about the entrance of foreign agents, terrorism or undercover espionage and give them to Homeland Security. There’s a lot of FBI people that go after counterfeiting or currency violations. Give them the Department of Treasury. We have a lot of them who work with the Pentagon, put a division into the Pentagon. Just take the entire agency and disperse it throughout the federal government. Then take that building and let other people in Washington use it.
The FBI has too much power, and its record is too dangerous to democracy. The Left always says democracy dies in the dark. At this moment, the FBI is one of the great threats to democracy. What do I mean by that? It’s a terrible thing to say, but think of what I’m saying. Do they intervene in elections? Yes. They hired a foreign national spy who was illegally working for a campaign. If you’re a foreigner, you can’t work for a campaign. He was basically being paid by Hillary Clinton, GPS, and DNC paywalls. He was hired by Perkins Coie. They tried to spread a fake dossier around. They ruined the life of Carter Page. They went after Papadopoulos. They tried to destroy Michael Flynn.
Their leaders, when asked to explain what was going on, lied. Andrew McCabe lied to federal investigators. James Comey pled amnesia. He broke the law, and he disseminated confidential memos. What I’m getting at is they tried to affect that election in 2020, they tried to effect it. They had a laptop. The person said, “This laptop was given to me by Hunter Biden. I looked at it, and I think it’s pretty serious.” He made a copy of some of the materials on it. They gave it to the FBI. The FBI had it in its possession. They said, “We’re not going to talk about it.” But when 50 intelligence officers did want to talk about it, they said, “It looks to us like Russian disinformation.” They were asked, “You have the laptop. Can you comment on it?” They replied, “No. It might affect the election.” Because after the election was over and the narrative changed, and suddenly by 2022 Joe Biden was a liability, guess what? Stuff started to come out about the laptop. We started to get leaks about it, and that could come from the FBI.
The FBI went after Roger Stone and James O’Keefe. They don’t do that with the Left. So, they interfere in elections. Do the directors lie? Yes, I just mentioned two of them. They lie. They lie under oath. Mueller lied when he said he didn’t know about Fusion GPS or the Steele dossier. McCabe admitted he lied four times. James Comey lied. If the IRS said to me, “Mr. Hansen, we can’t find $20,000 of the write-offs you took. Where are they?” I’d say, “I can’t remember. I’m not going to address that.” They would say, “Well, do you have any records?” I’d say again, “I can’t remember all that.” That’s called lying, and that’s what Comey did.
My point is, do they have people that destroy evidence? Yes. Clinesmith,Comey, and Mueller did. They were asked for critical FBI phones.They erased them. When you have an agency that has gone rogue and is interfering at the highest level of the country to effect an election, and the directors of those agencies are willing to alter or leak documents that they shouldn’t, or they lie under oath to federal investigators or lie to a committee by claiming amnesia, or they oversee a bureau that will wipe clean phone records that are under subpoena, or they will prosecute one person, but not another, then it’s institutionalized, and you’ve got to get rid of it.
I don’t understand this idea that once you have a bureau, you’ll always have it. It’s so ironic because we’re all in this new era where we’re not like J. Edgar Hoover anymore. We think that J. Edgar Hoover polluted the wonderful idea of the FBI. All along, it may have been that the FBI’s pernicious ideas polluted J. Edgar Hoover. In a democracy and a constitutional republic, do you really want a national federal police force, a Stasi-like police force, a Gestapo? There’s no need for it. We have a federal system. The states have it. We have cabinet bureaus that are equipped to go across state lines for matters of immigration or terrorism or currency like the Treasury and Homeland Security. We can do that. We don’t need this massive behemoth that is out of control.
You can really see it when you look at the directors. What was the one common denominator in the last four during their testimony? When Mueller came in and they asked him about the Steele dossier, he said, “I don’t know.” You don’t know? That was your entire 22 months and $40 million budget. It was based on the dossier and the Fusion GPS information. He says, “I don’t know.” And they let him off. When they had Comey, he said, “I can’t remember.” Then, when he went to a private group to push his book, he could remember very well. He said, “Let me tell you how we got Mike Flynn. We just kind of walked in there. They usually want to check. They didn’t check. So I said, ‘Send them in,’ and we got the guy.” He was asked, “What were you looking for?” He replied, “We were looking for Logan Act violations.” Logan Act violations have never been prosecuted.
McCabe was asked, “Did you say that?” He replied, “Ye, I misled on this. I didn’t tell the truth. I shouldn’t have done that.” Christopher Wray was asked, “What do you think of the Russia-collusion hoax?: He replied, “I wouldn’t use that word, Russia-collusion. I wouldn’t use the word hoax. I have an appointment, and I have to get out of here.” Grassley says, “We gave you a Gulfstream luxury jet. Can’t you give us 10 more minutes?” No, he couldn’t. He had to go to his vacation home. So, they are completely out of control. We’ll probably have the FBI knocking on this door by the end of this interview.
I hope not.
I hope not too.
You mentioned way back in 2020, that Donald Trump is a kind of a talisman or a totem. There’s been all these takes about what the implications are. The Megan McCain tweet that I mentioned said, “If you don’t have something good, you’ve just handed Donald Trump 2024 on a silver platter.” Another take is from Jeffrey Tucker, and apparently the Wall Street Journal subscribes to it to some extent, that it would actually be good for the Democrats to have Donald Trump be the focus of the 2024 election.
It would be good for them. It would almost be some type of catharsis.
Perhaps you can rally everyone exactly in the way that you were just describing before. I’m just curious what your thoughts are about this.
There’s two theories among conservatives. One theory is the catharsis theory, and it involves a lot of pernicious characters. Beneath the happy-go-lucky smiles of James Comey and Robert Mueller, they had been doing a lot of bad things. We really didn’t know what Chuck Schumer was capable of. But Donald Trump came along, and he turned the heat up so much that the frogs jumped out of the boiling pot. We saw them for the first time. He exposed them, and that was good.
Then you have the less radical interpretation. Everybody has sins, but the definition of a person is not his innate sin, but the ability he uses to repress that sin. Donald Trump was so provocative and such a flawed person that he enraged people. Their protective mechanisms, which otherwise wouldn’t have worn down, got worn down. Then, these aberrations started coming out with people that we thought were such nice people. We loved Bill Kristol, but finally he just got worn down. But that was not really necessary. So that’s the other view.
My view tends to be that he’s a catharsis, and I’m going to give equal credence to this view. This translates into what’s coming up in 2024, because the Republican Party now has answered one question. Are you committed to the MAGA-agenda defined as Jacksonian, rather than interventionist overseas, punitive rather than nation building, wedded to the idea that asymmetrical trade is not sustainable and will be replied to in kind, redeveloping and reinvesting in the industrialization of America, full bore gas and oil as a transitory fuel that has to remain affordable, smaller government, more deregulation, tough policing, tough DAs, and longer sentences?
If it’s Pompeo or Nikki Haley or DeSantis or Cotton, they’re all on that page. So that issue’s over with. There’s not going to be a Liz Cheney that says, “I’m going to run for president on certain issues.” What issues? She voted for 93 per cent of his bills. She has no agenda that will be markedly different. You won’t see anybody disagree with any of these things. What will be the disagreement? The disagreement will be that, “I’m a better emissary, a better messenger. I don’t tweet. I don’t make fun of Anthony Fauci the way he throws a baseball. I don’t make fun of people. I don’t call Stormy Daniels a horse mouth. In fact, I won’t even have a Stormy Daniels in my campaign to do that.” So that’s the argument.
The counter-argument is that Donald Trump is chemotherapy. When you take chemotherapy to kill cancer, you vomit. Would you rather have sugar water to make you feel good? It’s not going to do anything for the cancer. That’s the argument we’re having now. It’s very strange. It’s all on personality. The Trump people will say, “DeSantis went to Harvard. I know he’s a lawyer. I know he was a JAG guy in Iraq. I know he’s got the perfect family. He can actually run a state. But when push comes to shove and they go after his family, he’s not up to it. He’s not.” Then, DeSantis will answer, “I am up to it. I’ve taken on Disney. But the difference between me and Trump is that you only have so many resources, so I don’t go down these cul-de-sacs and alleys and get in a stupid little fight.”
This is the subtext of this election. It’s going to come down to those two people. The argument is going to be Donald Trump’s personal style is counterproductive, and he alienates too many people. His supporters are going to say, “No, he knows how to fight. He brings out the worst in bad people, which is important.” The DeSantis people will say, “We can get the same agenda without the downside. The Left will not be as effective in attacking me as they will attackingTrump.” I don’t have the answer for that.
The raid in Mar-a-Lago tended to help Donald Trump a great deal. I can’t quite figure that out, because it seemed to me that the Democratic Party kept telling us that Trump was not viable and that nobody liked him and he was done for. Yet, they made a great effort to damage him. But they did it in such a sloppy, counterproductive way that it helped him. Everybody says that. The polls already show that he’s been helped. Maybe they believe that he would be more difficult to beat than DeSantis. I don’t know. I don’t believe that’s true, but I think that’s what they think. So it’s a very interesting time. I’m not just being unfair to the other candidates. We could get a candidate like Cotton or Pompeo or Haley very easily, and I think everybody would support them.
One final note is it will be very interesting for the Never Trumpers, because they told us that the agenda was not the problem. Liz Cheney, as I said, voted for 93 per cent of the agenda proposals of Donald Trump. Yet, she’s already said that she has problems with DeSantis. You get the impression that it wasn’t just Trump, the person. They have now been swimming in new waters that are very comfortable for them, the big, big Left-wing money. When people make that break, whether they’re Bulwark, or whether they’re The Dispatch, or whether they’re the Lincoln Project, or whether they’re Liz Cheney, they’re just overwhelmed by the amount of money there is on the Left; entertainment, professional sports, celebrities, corporations, and Big Tech foundations. It just pours in at them. They start to think, “I don’t want to go back. I’ve got to get an excuse to stay here. It’s much too comfortable.” They’re finding those excuses now with, “Oh, DeSantis is too rude, or Cotton is too blunt.” Otherwise they would have voted for their agenda 100 per cent.
Victor Davis Hanson, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.
Thank you for having me.
Thank you all for joining Victor Davis Hanson and I on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.
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