Victor Davis Hanson had a superb article at American Greatness on Monday, proclaiming the death of the “Deep State” coup attempt against Trump and offering an autopsy of it.
The autopsy is gripping, and I can’t recommend strongly enough that you read it in full. The scope of what was attempted, and the losses in institutional trust and integrity, are breathtaking.
I do think Hanson is right to say that the coup attempt, as we can legitimately call it – since there was never any evidence of Russia-Trump “collusion” to interfere with the 2016 election – has failed. The attempt he outlines, involving the Department of Justice, the FBI, and a slew of Obama officials at the NSC and other key agencies (e.g., State, CIA), has been too thoroughly exposed to continue.
Certainly Hillary Clinton is in no position to keep paying anyone to pump air into it. And whatever the DNC’s involvement was in 2016, the leadership has changed since then, and the party itself is undergoing a transformation only dimly understood right now. If DNC HQ is pulling strings in a current effort to unseat Trump in an untimely, extra-electoral way, there’s no sign of it.
I do perceive frequent evidence that people in the permanent bureaucracy are still trying to undermine Trump’s policies. No matter who Trump puts in jobs related to environmental policy, those officials are immediately attacked for long lists of trumped-up “ethics violations,” which no one has the courage to say are trumped up and manifestly lobbed out as political attacks.
Likewise, there is a cohort of Unnamed Officials in intelligence and foreign relations always at the ready to spin foreign-affairs “leaks” that seem to make the Trump administration, and especially Trump himself, look clueless and incompetent. Careful follow-up routinely shows that none of these disclosures is a “bombshell,” but rather represents the use of information that everyone with a clearance has, to lay media landmines in advance of the administration’s policy choices.
All of that is to say that the focused, high-profile coup attempt may be dead, but the campaign to undermine the Trump presidency continues.
Which brings us to the House of Representatives. If Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff (Ds-CA) and others have their way, the Democrat-led House will spend the next 23 months invading the lives of as many Trump associates and family members as necessary to draw blood from Trump himself. If the House can’t get a formal impeachment attempt going, maybe it can twist the screws enough to induce Trump to resign.
As to whether this too should be called a “coup,” you decide. That’s not the focus of this post. Instead, I want to make two follow-on points to the “coup is dead” proclamation.
The coup has been a major self-own
One is that the “Deep State” coup only failed at unseating Trump. It succeeded spectacularly at exposing the malfeasance of many of its own executors, a point I’ve made several times before. Victor Davis Hanson’s list of officials is sizable, but not exhaustive.
Moreover, his focus is on the DOJ and FBI. But there has been tremendous leg-work done by journalists and blogger-investigators on complicity in other corners of the federal bureaucracy, and there is much that is publicly known about these other actors’ roles that has yet to figure in any meaningful, formal investigation or proceeding.
Examples include the State Department as a conduit for anti-Trump allegations from Hillary Clinton’s associates, State’s role in lining up the multi-pronged campaign against Paul Manafort, and the machinations behind the hundreds of “unmasking” taskers levied by members of the Obama National Security Council on U.S. persons. (The latter had to involve more than one agency of government to be executed with the focus apparently attending them.)
What we can take from this history is that the more “Trump” is probed, the more will come out about those going after him. I am even more sure than I was this time last year that Adam Schiff is going to open a big can of self-own on Democratic donors, the media, and federal appointees by pursuing Trump with invasive probes of his associates in the House.
There’s a lot still to learn, so in that sense, this is not a bad thing. Of course, it won’t be pleasant for those targeted by the probes.
The counterintelligence deficit
The other point is a related one. There has been an over-focus across the board on the DOJ and FBI over the last two years. That has resulted in a lot of leads being left unpursued.
The “counterintelligence” aspect of the whole anti-Trump Russiagate drama has also been misdirected from the beginning. That appears to have been deliberate. But if we merely walk the deliberate, Russia-focused misdirection back – i.e., as part of an investigation of the DOJ and FBI officials who made an instrument of it – we’ll miss the counterintelligence effort we really do need.
That effort is indicated by the other things we know at this point: things that implicate the same actors who appear in the Russiagate drama, but have never been adequately investigated. I believe there are three at a minimum, and all of them are in fact counterintelligence problems, because they either manifestly involve foreign governments, or are extremely likely to.
The British connection
One is the remarkable persistence of information about British Commonwealth involvement in ginning up suspicions against Trump and the apparatus for penetrating his 2016 campaign organization. Participation by UK-based organizations and persons in this campaign bears the hallmarks of an influence operation – by definition, of course, a foreign one.
It isn’t clear how high up any knowledge about this effort went in the governments of David Cameron or Theresa May, and I emphasize that there is no evidence I know of that puts it at their level. But at the least, the delicate business of identifying a “Deep State” in the UK – a network in which the Australian Alexander Downer and the Brit Christopher Steele would have had connections, as well as Americans like Stefan Halper – demands to be done.
The Russian – uranium – connection
The UK aspect, entailing a wirebrush of America’s traditionally closest ally, would be a unique form of counterintelligence probe. More straightforward would be the second one I see a need for: running down the true extent and meaning of the Uranium One deal, now nearly ten years old in formal conclusion, and somewhat more than that in conception.
The shady Clinton dealings didn’t only involve uranium, and there’s a strong case that related activities like Hillary’s support of the Skolkovo IT complex – unquestionably a project of the Russian government, with a red-flashing intelligence alarm going off all over it – needs looking into as well.
But Uranium One is sui generis, and we have gotten so used to thinking of this deal as being “about” kickbacks to the Clintons that we’ve forgotten what really matters: that for a lot of people, perhaps not just the Russians, it was “about” the uranium. Uranium, in fact, has cropped up several times on the edges of the Russiagate drama, and it would be unwise to assume, without checking, that that is mere coincidence. This question mark, indisputably linked at a minimum to the government of Russia, needs investigation, and badly.
The Pakistani connection
The third aspect is the most bizarre story of all: the mystery of the Pakistani Awan family and their extraordinary career with the House Democrats – and only the Democrats – on Capitol Hill.
The Awan link to Russiagate may seem minimal at first glance. But it’s definitely enough to merit further pursuit.
After they were exposed in early 2017, the Awans’ most aggressive champion among Democrats was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who not coincidentally was chairwoman of the DNC in 2016 – at the time of the “Russian hacking” the FBI was never allowed to directly investigate.
Curiously, Wasserman-Schultz was in the eye of the storm for two of the three most hotly disputed computers of the last half decade: the “hacked” DNC email server, which the DNC wouldn’t allow the FBI to inspect, and the laptop left by Imran Awan in the Rayburn House Office Building phone closet, which she publicly threatened a Capitol Police official over. (The third disputed computer would be Hillary Clinton’s “homebrew” email server.) A comic might crack jokes about Ms. Wasserman-Schultz’s weird thing for computers.
During the eventful year 2016, Imran Awan had full access to Wasserman-Schultz’s congressional account, while she also had an account on the DNC server. Presumably, some number of the other Democratic House Members whose account credentials the Awans had access to possessed DNC server accounts as well.
When the Awans were having iPhones and iPads purchased through a congressional contract written off as unaccountable losses, in 2015 and 2016, they were in all probability arranging for Pakistanis (and perhaps others) to connect through U.S. government accounts – using those devices – as if they were authorized users on U.S. government equipment. The necessary account credentials, the Awans already had. The DNC server was probably one that would see exactly such connections, whether legitimate or mimicked by a foreign intelligence agent with a House-purchased iPhone.
Journalists Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller (Obstruction of Justice) and Frank Miniter (Spies in Congress) have done the key work documenting the Awans’ history for the public. They’ve uncovered a lot, including evidence of connections between the Awan family and Pakistani officials. There is a great deal that needs probing here.
There’s another data point that may or may not be significant, but that jumped out at me not long ago. Imran Awan was first hired as an IT assistant by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) in January 2004. (Awan obtained U.S. citizenship around the same time. See Miniter and Rosiak for more on this and Awan’s background.)
That was the beginning of Awan’s peculiar career on the Hill. It’s hard to discern an event in the United States that seems to be related to that development.
But one of the biggest things to happen in Pakistan in the last quarter century occurred just a few weeks before Imran Awan was hired by Wexler. Muammar Gadhafi, who had been a client of A.Q. Khan, renounced Libya’s nuclear weapons program in December of 2003, and disclosed all of the program’s procurement information to the IAEA.
It was at that time that Khan’s complicity became formally acknowledged and known to the U.S. and other member nations. On 4 February 2004, Khan made a confession of his proliferation history on Pakistani TV, stating that he had acted of his own accord throughout. Pakistan insisted on dealing with him domestically, over objections from other nations wanting to question him, including the United States.
Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the extremely strange arrangement with the Pakistani Awans on Capitol Hill began at exactly the same time. However, it does not seem likely to be a coincidence. The nature of a potential connection, if there is one, requires investigation.
One more comment on this. Most analysts of the Awan story have focused on the point that having full command of dozens of representatives’ House accounts would give the Awans access to a lot of privileged information about Congress. That is true, and it certainly matters. But it is probably more important that access to those accounts provides an entrée to material from executive agencies – like the Departments of Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security, just to name a few – whether accessed on those agencies’ own servers, or on House committee servers where staffers have amassed it.
Moreover, the representatives correspond with other government officials and with their personal political networks – donors, lobbyists, political operatives from PACs and think-tanks – as well as with each other and with their legislative calendars. Such material, along with the variety of material hosted on House or agency servers, would be the real treasure for a foreign government.
We may expect an investigation to be ordered by Attorney General William Barr in the coming days. If the only purpose it has is to track down the indictable offenses of Hillary Clinton or disgraced officials of the DOJ and FBI, it will have some limited use, to be sure.
But up to now, we have not had a satisfactory answer to why it was so very, very important to an array of actors around the globe to conspire against a Trump presidency from 2015 to this day. I think we would find much of that answer in a counterintelligence probe of the three topics laid out here.