Fifteen years ago, I would have suggested a tinfoil hat for anyone who believed in the deep state. But recent events have made me rethink my diagnosis. The term “deep state” intimates a conspiracy somewhere in the woodshed. But it’s basically two or more people who get together and agree on something bad.
In the case of a shadow government, that something is to impede or overthrow the legitimate government. The current political environment offers convincing evidence that individuals are attempting to do just that. They utilize legal and illegal means in an effort to annul the will of the people. Their ultimate goal is to end the presidency of Donald Trump.
As an FBI agent, I was careful to separate facts from fiction when investigating cases. The public can make wild conjectures and cite gossip as gospel, but law enforcement officers must deal in facts. So, does a deep state currently exist in American today?
Let’s examine that possibility through the eyes of an investigator. I’ll provide evidence both direct and circumstantial and offer an analysis based on those facts. There is also a residual effect of the deep state, which results in the incidental recruitment of like-minded individuals. A legal term would be unindicted co-conspirators. These folks share the ideology of the main players and act as unwitting surrogates. They eventually become active participants in the shadow government. I’ll provide examples of surrogates and demonstrate how they also contribute to the deep state.
Fact/Known: James Comey reduced his alleged obstruction of justice meeting with President Trump to a memo. James Comey intentionally leaked that memo with the stated intent to trigger the special counsel statute. James Comey met with his friend, special counsel Robert Mueller, prior to Comey’s testifying before a congressional committee.
As an investigator, I would not consider the leaked memo to be direct evidence since it is basically written hearsay and depends on Comey’s memory and veracity. The memo is no different from two drivers providing contradicting observations of the same traffic accident. Victim — The Trump presidency.
Analysis: In my experience, if someone admits to a specific wrongdoing once, leaking, it’s a good bet that it wasn’t his first time. A burglar never strikes once. There are dozens of unsolved leaks, and Director Comey was in the position to have access to the information contained in those leaks.
Comey was asked under oath if he believed the president attempted to obstruct justice in the Flynn case. He replied that it was up to the special counsel to determine if obstruction occurred. Comey’s desire for a special counsel is actually an admission that he believes the president did obstruct justice. He wouldn’t wish a special counsel to prove that the president didn’t commit a crime. Why else would he do it?
But when questioned on Loretta Lynch’s orders to call the Clinton e-mail investigation a “matter,” he felt no similar compunction for an investigation. As an investigator, this tells me that Mr. Comey has a political and ideological agenda that affected his judgment and impartiality.
Unknowns/Further Investigation: Mueller’s meeting with Comey, prior to his testimony before Congress, raises my investigative hackles. They reviewed what Comey could and could not say publicly about the obstruction conversation. In essence, you had a prosecutor coaching his main witness in the court of public opinion. This is anything but impartial since millions of Americans heard only one side — deep state stuff for sure.
I’d want to know the substance of that Mueller-Comey chat, specifically if Mueller has already established President Trump’s guilt. Since obstruction of justice can be interpreted differently by two attorneys viewing the same set of facts, an investigation can also be conducted to prove a preconceived belief.
Surrogates/Co-conspirators: Mr. Comey’s leak provided tacit approval and emboldened other like-minded federal employees to leak.
Fact: Susan Rice admitted on MSNBC that she sometimes sought the identities of Trump associates who communicated with foreigners, a request known as “unmasking” in the intelligence community. Victim — The Trump presidency.
Rice’s admission came after she initially told PBS’ Judy Woodruff that she “knew nothing” about the unmasking of Trump associates. Inconsistent statements are called clues in law enforcement. The fact that Rice has furnished other inconsistencies is called a pattern, or MO. There was the Benghazi video and the Bowe Bergdahl fib.
Supporting evidence includes the fact that the White House does not conduct investigations. Not criminal investigations, and not intelligence investigations. Generally, it is the FBI that conducts investigations concerning American citizens suspected of acting as agents of foreign powers.
So if unmasking was relevant to the Russia investigation, the FBI, CIA or NSA would have done it. There would have been no need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. The national security adviser is not an investigator. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it.
Analysis: If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests: It was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic Party interests. If it was critical to know the identities of Americans caught up in other foreign intelligence efforts, the agencies that collect the information and conduct investigations would have unmasked them.
Fact: Democrats are not psychologists.
Victim: The Trump Presidency.
The current weapon of the deep state is the accusation that President Trump is mentally unbalanced. If an FBI agent ever concluded that a subject of our investigation was mentally imbalanced, the first question the defense attorney asked would be: “Well, Agent Ligato, at what medical school did you earn your degree in psychology?”
I would be immediately discredited, and anything I said after that would be moot. But many of our elected Democratic officials stare somberly at the camera with their University of Google degrees and make medical diagnoses.
Surrogates: The rank and file of the “hate Trump” posse frequently repeat the diagnosis whether they believe it or not.
Fact: Our media have become part of the deep state. Some are active players, and others are unwitting surrogates based on their ideology. In the not too distant past both the FBI and the media were fact-finders. We shared the standard of burden of proof by relying on multiple and reliable sources. My actions as a law enforcement officer could have a profound effect on citizens ranging from destroying their reputation to taking their freedom. I could not sit on the witness stand and cite gossip, rumors or anonymous sources to convict someone.
The media also have the ability to ruin reputations and lives with unfounded allegations and accusations. This power comes with the responsibility to get it right, but today’s media make the most outrageous accusations, citing anonymous sources with impunity and then hiding behind a privilege that doesn’t exist.
Our attorney general was permitted a perjury reboot and allowed to admit to a memory lapse — only after the committee produced a copy of the affidavit with his signature.
CNN has recently been “outed” for committing deep state tactics. There are many journalists who are so lazy and incompetent that they merely reprint or report other people’s news stories, many of which turn out to be fake news.
Surrogates: The mainstream media act as surrogates of the deep state with the intended purpose to degrade and destruct the Trump presidency.
Fact: Conflict of interest charges are routinely ignored and downplayed when perpetrated by Democrats.
A few examples include John Podesta’s financial interest in the Joule Company, a Russia-based energy company partially owned by the Russian government. The allegation is that the Clinton family and Russia both benefited from an alleged “pay-for-play” scheme while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, involving the transfer of U.S. uranium reserves to the Russian owners of a mining operation in exchange for $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation.
The $500,000 for a speech by Bill Clinton, paid for by a Russian investment bank, bolsters the circumstantial evidence of an inappropriate relationship between Russia and the Clintons. The specific charges of extortion, public corruption, and bribery are difficult to prove. The investigation is tedious, but there seems to be an abundance of facts and circumstantial evidence.
The FBI would certainly conduct a preliminary inquiry into these allegations and forward the results to the Justice Department. Due to the amount of public interest in the case, one would surmise that Justice would pronounce the matter either closed or indict someone. But that would require the highly political office of the attorney general under Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch to admit a scintilla of Democratic wrongdoing.
Speaking of Lynch and conflicts of interest, we have the attorney general’s tarmac meeting with our former president while his wife was under investigation. These facts and circumstances would be considered probable cause to believe that a crime had occurred, yet we are left with unsubstantiated rumors that the FBI has yet to open an investigation.
Analysis: The above corruption matters merit an FBI investigation, but the most blatant conflict of interest, and the one that can have a significant effect on the Trump presidency, is the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. This statute should only be enacted when there is underlying evidence of criminal activity and not rumors and anonymous sources. The statute also spells out what constitutes a conflict of interest.
The language seems to have been written for the Mueller-Comey relationship. It calls for a recusal if there is a personal or political relationship between the counsel and potential witnesses or targets. Comey fits into both categories, yet Mueller refuses to recuse himself. This taints his impartiality and his integrity. Victim — The Trump presidency.
Fact: Selective non-prosecution of Democrats, or — “Nobody goes to jail anymore!”
As a retired law enforcement officer, I am astonished by the continuing criminal activities by members of the Democratic Party. Examples include: perjury under oath by Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, James Clapper, and Huma Abedin; refusal to answer questions under oath by Lois Lerner, Loretta Lynch, and a significant memory lapse by Cheryl Mills; and obstruction of justice by Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton, and several tech guys who destroyed evidence.
A flagrant example of selective prosecution is Eric Holder. He testified under oath that he had no knowledge of the James Rosen affidavit. Our attorney general was permitted a perjury reboot and allowed to admit to a memory lapse — only after the committee produced a copy of the affidavit with his signature. Any other individual would be eating off metal trays. Just ask Martha Stewart, who went to prison for lying to FBI agents.
Victim: The Republicans/All Americans.
Fact: Robert Mueller’s tenure as the FBI director resulted in a significant reduction of the FBI’s long-standing independence. A byproduct of this loss was the politicization of the bureau, and the opportunity for the deep state to play. The Justice Department always had a political component. JFK appointed his brother as attorney general, and Hillary Clinton demanded a female attorney general during her husband’s presidency. But Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton days before James Comey’s announcement of Hillary’s innocence was all about the deep state.
The FBI had always remained at arms length concerning selective prosecution until Mueller effectively merged the FBI with the Justice Department. The FBI never considered targets based on political party, ideology, or race. Our criteria was simply criminal activity.
Many liberal individuals spout similar or more offensive speech, but they are civilians and not entrusted with U.S. secrets.
Prior to Mueller’s directorship, the FBI opened cases, investigated cases, opened informants, and then presented our findings to the U.S. Attorney. At the conclusion of Mueller’s tenure, FBI agents were required to obtain approval from Justice to open certain cases, informants and many investigative techniques.
This muddied the waters and resulted in Director Comey’s July 5, 2016, announcement that the FBI was not recommending charges against Hillary Clinton. The FBI had never made recommendations on guilt or innocence. That is the Department of Justice’s purview. We at the FBI are fact-finders.
Analysis: One outcome of Mueller’s politicizing the FBI is Comey operating outside our charter by leaking official documents and making a decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton. Further proof of the bureau’s politicization is Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The wife of the No. 2 man in the FBI received $943,000 in campaign contributions from democratic PACs, $650,500 of which came from the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and now Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. McCabe failed to report the contribution because technically, he wasn’t required to do so under IRS regulations.
The campaign contributions came during the period McCabe was investigating Hillary Clinton. If we connect the dots in this Greek tragedy, we see Mueller, Comey, McCabe, Lynch, the Clintons — and another round of Comey and Mueller, which culminated in the special counsel. Victim — The Trump presidency.
Fact: The leaks of Eric Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Reality Winner damaged national security. Although Snowden and Manning’s leaks occurred during the Obama presidency, there are several dynamics that tie these leaks to the deep state. The trio received top-secret clearances despite plenty of indicators that they were security risks. Why were they granted top secret clearance? FBI agents no longer conduct the background security investigations on contract employees, and the result is shoddy work.
The background check has been farmed out to for-profit corporations that are on the clock. Their contract renewal is based on turning over these cases quickly, but a proper background investigation for a top secret clearance takes time and effort.
An example of how flawed individuals are routinely handed the keys to our national secrets is the social media postings of Reality Winner. Her employer was Pluribus International Corporation based in Alexandria, Virginia. The company is a government contractor, and as an employee Winner had a top secret security clearance.
Two postings on Winner’s Facebook page should have alerted her background investigator to a problem. The two postings were: “Why burn a flag… Donald Trump thinks crosses burn much better”; and, “On a positive note, this Tuesday (election of Trump), we became the United States of the Russian Federation….”
Many liberal individuals spout similar or more offensive speech, but they are civilians and not entrusted with U.S. secrets.
Winner had an obvious hatred of President Trump fueled by ideology. Did she have a First Amendment right to speak her mind? Most definitely, but that didn’t entitle her to a top secret clearance. Most of the FBI agents in my era would have considered Winner a security risk.
There are also some miscellaneous factors contributing to the deep state — such as the unwitting surrogates who feel that America is not exceptional and carry some vague guilt concerning white privilege and entitlements. They wave the deep state flag of “the resistance,” which paints a picture of a futuristic sci-fi flick with good guys fighting mutant evildoers. But these resisters place bandanas on their faces, break windows, block traffic, and burn cars.
Liberal mayors order police officers to “stand down,” which has the effect of normalizing attacks on police officers. It all contributes to anarchy, making it acceptable to throw bricks at police officers and loot stores. My father was a Philadelphia police officer in the 1950s and ’60s, and any object tossed his way would end in an arrest and some counseling. Most officers feel the same way.
There’s a misguided concept of patriotism with many of today’s youth that contributes to the dark state. Take Snowden, Manning and Winner, who may be the brightest but certainly not the best. They considered leaking to be a patriotic act due to their rigid ideology, which embraces and accepts diversity for all things except thought.
So, does the deep state exist with a goal of destroying the Trump presidency? I rest my case.
John Ligato (USMC-retired) is a former deep-cover FBI special agent and author of the new book “The Near Enemy: A John Booker Thriller.”