The election of 2016 revealed the fault lines in U.S. political culture in a way that no event has since the Civil War.
Now, as then, Americans suddenly realized they had no idea who their brothers, husbands, fathers, and neighbors really were; that people they thought of as fellow countrymen, defending the same principles and way of life, actually were near-total strangers.
In 1856, it was nearly inconceivable that a third of the country would refuse to accept the results of a duly constituted election—and yet, four years later, it did exactly that. The Democrats, irate at the election of the first Republican president, began a secession movement that eventually included 11 states, and fired on Fort Sumter, thus opening hostilities in the bloodiest war in U.S. history.
Flash forward to 2016. The election of outsider Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, not only stunned the media and the establishments of both political parties, it created a mortal threat to the real powers in Washington—the embedded bureaucracy, the regulators who wield more power than the average congressman, and, most importantly, to the Intelligence Community, spearheaded by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Its decadeslong, cozy modus vivendi—not only with America’s professed enemies, but also with the politicians and journalists it so carefully nurtured and stroked at home—suddenly stood to be exposed. With their outright refusal to accept Trump as president, the forces arrayed against him in D.C. and across the country have revealed to the nation just how fundamentally different—how anti-American—they really are.
The first blow was to the orderly succession of power from one wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party to the other: the line of dynastic succession that had begun with the presidency of George H.W. Bush (a former CIA director) and continued through Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and was to have continued with Hillary Clinton in 2008. But the upstart Barack Obama jumped the queue, defeating Hillary for the nomination and winning two terms in the White House.
In 2016, with the fix in, Hillary turned away a challenge from socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and was poised to resume the Habsburgian order against a hapless nonentity like Jeb Bush when the brash businessman Trump destroyed his Republican competition and then outpointed Clinton in the Electoral College to win the presidency.
And thus the “Resistance” was born, with the past three years of endless, manipulated investigations as the undemocratic and dangerous result. On his way out of office, Obama inexplicably widened the National Security Agency’s distribution lists, giving access to extremely sensitive personal information about U.S. citizens to other American intelligence agencies and officials.
In short order, Mike Flynn, the national security adviser, was caught in a perjury trap by a weaponized FBI that had come into possession of his private communications with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. In short order, Flynn was gone, the “Russian collusion” hoax was born, and Trump’s every move was now under the scrutiny of an unholy alliance of media types, Democrat politicians, and spooks from the swamps of Langley and elsewhere.
All of this was, and remains, stunningly illegal. By charter, the CIA is forbidden from operating within the United States, and yet, by all appearances, has been running a counter-intelligence operation (fronted by its stooges in the FBI) against the White House. Former IC officials, such as CIA Director John Brennan and his nominal superior, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have been outspoken in their contempt for Trump, as has been James Comey, the fired FBI chief.
Even the so-called “whistleblower” who triggered the absurd impeachment charade last year seems to have been a CIA plant inside the West Wing. If and when it is proven that the agency was quarterbacking the get-Trump operation (and there can be little or no doubt that it was), many former and perhaps current officials need to go to jail.
Which brings us to the appointment of Richard Grenell as acting DNI and why it has thrown Washington into such a tizzy. The sudden departure of Grenell’s predecessor, Joseph Maguire (who, like Grenell, was also acting DNI), was occasioned by the disastrous briefing given by Maguire’s deputy, Shelby Pierson, who on Feb. 13, with no evidence, told the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was working to support Trump in the 2020 election.
That the House Intelligence Committee headed by Rep. Adam Schiff was the driving force behind both the Russian collusion hoax and the Ukrainian impeachment stunt was entirely non-coincidental. Six days later, a furious Trump fired Maguire and brought in Grenell, the current ambassador to Germany, to clean house.
It’s about time. For three years, Trump has suffered the death of a thousand cuts from the “resistance” operatives still working in his administration—Obama holdovers who bear him no love and have worked diligently behind the scenes to frustrate his objectives and destroy his reputation.
The recent book “A Warning” by an anonymous mid-level official is just the latest example of open insurrection on the part of the president’s enemies. It’s taken the president, who prides himself on his ability to get people to like him, to finally realize there are some people—deep ideological enemies—that he can’t bully, charm, buy, wheedle, or cajole.
Grenell’s job, to which he is eminently suited by talent and temperament, is not only to gain control of the nearly useless Office of the Director of National Intelligence (a Bush-era accretion that was superimposed upon the entire IC in the wake of 9/11), but also to root out the fifth column throughout the executive branch.
Trump has been excellent on keeping his campaign promises, but the weakness of the first term—inevitably, because he isn’t a professional politician—was his overreliance on Beltway insiders and party hacks, which gave us the parade of Reince Priebus, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly, John Bolton, Omarosa Manigault, Anthony Scaramucci, and Jeff Sessions.
The reconstruction of the IC has already begun, with the dramatic downsizing of the National Security Council under national security advisor Robert O’Brien, which had ballooned to more than 230 policy analysts and is currently shedding up to 70 members—including the impeachment farce’s star witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
And there are skeletons aplenty within the IC, perhaps foremost among them why the vaunted CIA hasn’t managed to get a single thing right throughout its post-war existence—from Guatemala in 1954 to Iran in 1953 and 1979, to East Germany and the Soviet Union in 1989–1991. It’s a stunning and frankly intolerable record of failure that needs a fearless, and very public, airing.
Grenell and his deputy, Kash Patel, who largely authored the memo released by Rep. Devin Nunes outlining the FBI’s abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act processes at the beginning of the Russian collusion investigation, are the right men for the job—but they only have a short time before Grenell’s term as acting director expires.
Still, it’s a start—and a harbinger of what a second Trump term will bring should the president be reelected this fall.
Michael Walsh is the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history, will be published later this year by St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @dkahanerules
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.