Trump’s defenders: The ‘Deep State’ conspiracy theory
Even for a nation with a “venerable tradition of conspiracy theories,” said Jeet Heer in NewRepublic.com, America is entering into a dangerous new era. As special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation closes in on President Trump, the “paranoid ravings” about a “Deep State” coup are now “coming straight from the power centers in the White House and GOP.” Trump stooge Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is leading the way, with a memo claiming that the FBI improperly got a warrant to conduct surveillance of Trump campaign staff as they talked to and met with Russians. But Nunes has plenty of accomplices in his campaign to protect Trump at all costs. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson last week jumped on a report that two FBI agents had mentioned a “secret society” in text messages to warn Americans that FBI agents were “holding secret meetings off site”—presumably, to plot against the president. The next day, Johnson backed off his claim when it became clear the “secret society” reference in the texts was a joke. Nonetheless, Sean Hannity and other Fox News anchors stayed in “full tinfoil-hat mode,” delivering fevered nightly calls for the purging, and jailing, of anti-Trump conspirators. What’s more disturbing, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post, is that even mainstream Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, are echoing Hannity’s calls to “cleanse” the FBI. To defend Trump, Republicans are putting “partisanship over sanity.”
Republicans aren’t the desperate ones here, said Kimberley Strassel in WSJ.com. The imminent release of Nunes’ memo has sent Trump’s enemies into a panic. They realize their own conspiracy theory—that Trump “colluded” with Russia to steal the 2016 election—won’t survive some sunlight, so they’re smearing Republicans as raving paranoids. “The good news is that these frantic reactions are a sign Americans are getting closer to the truth.” I’m no fan of either Trump or conspiracy theories, said Kevin Williamson in NationalReview.com, but the FBI does not deserve blind trust. In their text exchanges, since-fired FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page spoke of developing an “insurance policy” in the unlikely event Trump was elected. What did that mean? As the Mueller investigation proceeds, we need “total transparency” by everyone involved—including the investigators.
To believe in the “Deep State” conspiracy, said Amanda Carpenter in Politico.com, you have to believe that Mueller—a lifelong Republican and decorated Marine war hero with an impeccable reputation—is leading a plot by Hillary Clinton sympathizers to overthrow the president. “Why is my party gaslighting America?” Republicans contracted their “conspiratorial mindset” directly from President Trump, said Mona Charen in NationalReview.com, a man who to this day insists, without a shred of evidence, that “millions of illegals” voted against him in 2016. Defend this shameless president if you must, Republicans, “but don’t become him.”
It’s too late, said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Large numbers of Republicans have been willing to entertain “outlandish and ludicrous tales” since the 1990s, when they insisted the Clintons had murdered Vince Foster. From there it’s a straight line to birtherism, Benghazi, and last year’s bizarre “Pizzagate” theory that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex-trafficking ring. “Not all Republicans tumble down these rabbit holes,” but many do, and the party’s leaders clearly see the “Deep State” conspiracy as their best defense against whatever charges Mueller may bring in the Russia affair. “They might not succeed” in saving Trump from the truth, “but they’re going to go to any length to do it.” ■