Paul Manafort wiretapping shows the deep state is real and dangerous

Paul Manafort wiretapping shows the deep state is real and dangerous
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One of the most disturbing aspects of the federal investigation of former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is the credence that it gives to President Donald Trump’s concerns over the influence of the “deep state.” This phenomenon, called the permanent state by former White House advisor Sebastian Gorka, has surprising resilience and a demonstrated ability to undermine the president’s agenda.

The deep state refers to career federal employees who advance their own agenda and manipulate public policy without accountability to our elected leaders or voters.

One need not subscribe to intricate conspiracy theories to believe that career bureaucrats and prior-administration holdovers systematically work against the current political leadership. Federal agency employees gave a staggering 95 percent of their campaign contributions to oppose the current administration. Political appointees leading these agencies are hard-pressed to counter the effects of their employees’ nearly unanimous and daily efforts to undermine their goals.

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE tweeted in March 2017 that the prior administration wiretapped his campaign and the Trump Tower, the media treated the president’s claim not merely as untrue but downright deranged. Intelligence officials responded immediately with steadfast and categorical denials. DNI director James Clapper and FBI director James Comey both insisted that President Trump’s tweet was not correct or that they had no information about the alleged wiretapping.

We now know that Manafort, who by the way has a residence in Trump Tower, was indeed subject to a federal wiretap, according to media reports. Now Messrs. Clapper and Comey, and their mainstream media defenders, are left with semantic arguments about “wiretapping” reminiscent of president Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonD-Day for Trump: September 29 Trump job approval locked at 42 percent: Gallup If Trump doesn't know why he should be president again, how can voters? MORE’s infamous claim defending his own sworn testimony because his veracity “depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Consider also the tale of two investigations. Special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators deployed brass-knuckles tactics against Manafort, designed to terrify and disorient him and his wife. Intimidation tactics were on full display, bypassing the locks on their residence while they slept and subjected his wife to a weapons search during a predawn raid of the Manafort home.

These are highly unusual measures for white-collar offenses, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy explains.  

In contrast, former secretary of state Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE received kid-glove treatment for her own involvement in national security and corruption offenses. The FBI permitted her to arrange a time to come in and talk with the investigators. There was no search of any of her residences, much less a traumatic predawn raid and spousal body search (can you imagine?).

Quite the contrary, then-attorney general Loretta Lynch engaged in an oddly timed chat on the tarmac with former president Clinton. By no accident, this stealth meeting occurred where their private jets could offer a secluded meeting where security personnel could shield them from cameras and journalists and the attorney general and former president could talk about — just grandchildren and golf, of course. Nothing more.

Afterwards, Lynch directed Comey to use the term “matter” rather than “investigation.” New evidence suggests that Comey predetermined that Clinton would not be charged, before investigators had even interviewed her or more than a dozen other witnesses.

Other examples abound. Former United Nations ambassador Samantha Powell allegedly requested unmasking U.S. citizens at an average rate exceeding one request for each working day in 2016, including in the final days of the prior administration. Sheryl Atkinson, a former CBS reporter, outlined how she and other journalists also became targets of the deep state.

Beginning in 2010 and leading up to the 2012 election, deep state efforts within the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative nonprofit groups. The IRS’s defenders claimed that rogue personnel were acting alone rather than taking direction from higher-ups in the prior administration, revealing that the corruption was not with a particular politician but within the entire apparatus of a federal agency.

One of the key officials, former director of tax-exempt organizations Lois Lerner, took the fifth and refused to answer questions when called to testify before under oath. She has never been indicted for her role in weaponizing the IRS against political opposition and still receives her taxpayer-funded pension.

Unprecedented unmaskings, wiretapping opposition campaigns, spying on journalists, directing federal agency power against political opponents: All of these actions were committed by unaccountable federal agency personnel in pursuit of retaining power and influence.

Is there a deep state working against the president’s agenda, protecting its own and targeting usurpers? Perhaps we will never know for sure, but this week’s revelation of the wiretapping of Paul Manafort during and after the election is clearly relevant to this inquiry.

Gayle Trotter is a partner and co-founder of Shafer & Trotter PLC, a law firm in metropolitan Washington, D.C., that advises entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a political analyst, Trotter has appeared on NPR, Fox News Channel’s The Kelly File and MediaBuzz. Follow her on Twitter @gayletrotter.