President Trump is mad at the FBI again, this time over the revelation that the agency used an informant (incidentally, a veteran of three previous Republican administrations) during the 2016 campaign to gather information about possible Russian interference in the election. Clearly infuriated, the president issued this imperious order on Sunday:
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The DOJ meekly complied.
The spin Trump is trying to push is so preposterous that even the most slavish Trump lickspittles in conservative media had momentary trouble adapting themselves to this latest logic pretzel. (Obama ordered an investigation of Trump for purely political reasons and … somehow never mentioned it until after the election?) But let's be clear about what's really happening here: Trump's libel of the FBI is just a way to deflect attention and blame away from his continuing effort to corrupt American democracy on behalf of himself and his fellow oligarchs around the world.
Consider for a moment a key reason why intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies are supposed to exist: to protect the integrity of a state's political structure. In American history, of course, many if not most times that purpose has been invoked has been tyrannical repression of domestic dissidents. In the name of "anti-Communism" ordinary American citizens merely trying to exercise their constitutional democratic rights were routinely subjected to government harassment, blackmail, or even straight-up assassinated. (Union organizers and civil rights activists have been targeted for particularly egregious state violence, then and now.)
However, that doesn't mean that the purpose of intelligence and law enforcement agencies is necessarily a sham. Many foreign governments and powerful foreign individuals have attempted to meddle with the American political structure in various ways, from the Soviet Union to nominal allies like Israel. In that situation, it is entirely right and proper for security agencies to investigate the possibility, and try to prevent it beforehand or remedy the breach after the fact. A democracy is supposed to be under the control of its voters, not other states or anyone else.
It is indisputable that Russia not only tried but succeeded in influencing the 2016 election. Donald Trump, Jr. clearly was eager to work with Russians to help his dad win, and it frankly beggars belief to think that his father wasn't made aware of this at some point. The question for the Mueller investigation is who else might be involved, what else might have taken place, in that or some other criminal activity (there are 19 indictments or guilty pleas publicly known so far).
But it turns out the Russia story is just one facet of the monumental corruption inside the Trump empire. The New York Times recently reported that Junior also contacted an Israeli social media specialist and a representative of high-level princes from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. named George Nader (who is also a convicted pedophile), in a meeting brokered by notorious mercenary Erik Prince. As with the Russia story, it's not clear what happened from there, but Junior expressed his approval, and Nader later gave the Israeli specialist something like $2 million.
Then on Monday, The Associated Press reported that a top Trump campaign fundraiser, Elliot Broidy, had worked with Nader in 2017 to push U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. and away from Qatar and Iran with millions in political donations. Some of that money, hilariously, was funneled through the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Neither Broidy nor Nader registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as would almost certainly be legally required.) That move having happened, they expected to collect millions in consulting contracts from the two monarchies — amounting in effect to post facto bribes. They had just begun to collect their payouts when Mueller's FBI team caught up to them.
In short, the Trump campaign and now the Trump administration has been open to pretty much any foreign authoritarian who wants to buy the American political system. Neither Trump, nor his halfwit sons, nor any of his goonish hangers-on, seem to have the slightest scrap of respect for American democracy or the right of the American people to honest government. It's just another rigged deal, another influence play, another institution to be looted — just with an unusually large number of loyal workers to be betrayed and cut out of the spoils in the end.
The Mueller investigation and other similar efforts are, at bottom, an effort to protect the basic integrity of the American democratic state — and not really from some hostile foreign adversary, but from a free-floating international cabal of oligarchs (a large plurality at least of whom are at least technically American) working tirelessly to make money the only axis of politics. That the pre-election investigation of his corruption included the (wholly legitimate) use of an informant just makes a handy way for Trump to spin himself as the victim while he continues to pick the pockets of the American people.