Streetwise Professor

January 13, 2017

Who? Whom?

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:05 pm

That, of course, is Lenin’s famous question.  What brings it to mind today is the drumbeat from the political class that Trump has to play nice with the intelligence services. For instance, Leon Panetta has been spending the last week chiding Trump for his rift with the intelligence community. Panetta represents the default DC position, which is aghast that that meanie Donald is bullying their BFF, the CIA.

Even worse is Chuckie Schumer: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have SIX ways from Sunday at GETTING BACK AT YOU”.

Nice little presidency you got here. Shame if anything happened to it.

Um, don’t you think that the appropriate action by a responsible government official would be to say that it is unacceptable for “the intelligence community” to “GET BACK AT” the president of the United States? Oh, but I was talking about Chuckie Schumer, so “responsible government official” doesn’t quite fit, does it?

And by the way, can you imagine the sh*tstorm that would erupt if anyone had said this, approvingly, about the “intelligence community” taking down Barack Obama a few pegs?

Well, I’ve always known it takes two to tussle, so why put all the blame on Trump? And more to the point, these same people pull their chins obsessively, and worry about Trump’s anti-constitutional impulses (a worry notably missing during the pen-and-a-phone Obama administration), Mattis’ appointment threatening civilian control of the military, and such.

Well riddle me this: who works for whom? Does Donald Trump work for the CIA, or does the CIA work for the chief executive of the United States under the Constitution, Donald Trump? Reading the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other establishment media outlets, I’d have to conclude the former.

The CIA, DNI, FBI, and the rest of the “seventeen intelligence agencies” we’ve been told about ad nauseum are part of the executive branch, and are answerable to the duly elected chief executive. Which in 7 days will be Donald John Trump. They may not like it, but they have to lump it. That’s the way the system works. Or is supposed to, anyways-as they tell us when it suits their purpose.

And if you are really truly concerned about seizures of power you should be concerned about the plain-as-the-nose-on-Barabara Streisand’s-face campaign of the intelligence agencies to de-legitimize the Trump presidency.

But apparently some people–and apparently most people in the 202 area code–are unable to rise above their oh-so-situational principles. A CIA doing things that would have had them in the streets had they done it against Obama or Clinton is just hunky dory if directed against Trump. Indeed, Trump is in the wrong for having the temerity to fight back.

Epitomizing the CIA courtier class is WaPoo columnist David Ignatius. I would call him a pilot fish, but those creatures clean the gills and mouth of sharks: Ignatius is more like whatever cleans the other end of the digestive tract.

His chin puller today included this attack on one of the CIA’s bêtes noire, National Security Advisor designate Michael Flynn:

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.

First, to claim that Flynn’s appearances on RT demonstrate his Putinist bona fides, without even mentioning Flynn’s very harsh condemnation of Russia in his book and in public statements about it means that Ignatius has discarded even the pretense of objectivity or fairness.

Second, this story starts in the middle. The Logan Act? Give me an effing break. At the time of these conversations, Flynn was 3 weeks from becoming NSA–hardly an ordinary citizen engaged in ad hoc diplomacy. Obama had just maliciously and deliberately complicated the incoming administration’s dealings with Russia by imposing sanctions on his way out the door. Everybody with a lick of sense realized that this was Obama’s purpose. But Ignatius doesn’t mention that. Get this, especially in light of the current screeches about Trump not being appropriately deferential to the CIA:

What discussions has the Trump team had with Russian officials about future relations? Trump said Wednesday that his relationship with President Vladimir Putin is “an asset, not a liability.” Fair enough, but until he’s president, Trump needs to let Obama manage U.S.-Russia policy.

The president is president, damn it, unless his name is Trump.

So what is the incoming administration generally, and Flynn specifically, supposed to do? Sit on their hands and zip their lips for 22 days rather than try to manage a problem that Obama deliberately created for them?

Can you seriously believe that had the situation been reversed, that Ignatius would have arrived at the same judgment? (A word I use loosely in this context.)

Other defenders of the CIA react to Trump with outrage: How dare he attack those who risk their lives defending us?!?!? First, the operational element of the CIA that actually faces any prospect of mortal danger is rounding error in its personnel count. The vast majority sit all day long in front of a computer screen in a huge building, and the biggest risks they face are sciatica, paper cuts, and bureaucratic backstabbing. Second, when I look at Syria, and other misadventures of the CIA where CIA lives have been at risk, I have to say: don’t do me any more favors by defending me.

Chuckie Schumer is right as a description of reality: the intelligence agencies DO have six ways to Sunday to attack a president (and they are doing so to the president elect now). But that’s exactly why Chuckie Schumer, and all the others toadying up to the CIA et al are dead wrong. This is not something to be remarked upon as a mere empirical fact, without moral judgment. It poses far more of a threat to constitutional government than Donald Trump’s Twitter account, or even any potential power grabs as president–which will elicit a furious reaction if he tries. Yet the Chuckie Schumers (which my autospell changed to “Chuckie Schemers”–smart autospell!) and Leon Panettas and David Ignatiuses of the world are clearly taking the side of the entity that is subverting the constitutional order. They realize that elections have consequences, and they don’t like it one damned bit, so they side with the unelected. Mark that well, and remember it any time they wail about Trump’s violation of the constitutional order of this country.


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  1. Well, considering the evidence of CIA involvement in the killing of the sainted JFK; Chuck might be on to something. Way .Six: assassination.

    The Pilot

    Comment by The Pilot — January 13, 2017 @ 9:24 pm

  2. @pilot-I have to say, this is causing me to revisit seriously my previously dismissive attitude to those conspiracy theories.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 13, 2017 @ 9:35 pm

  3. Yes, the interference and undermining by the intelligence agencies is alarming.

    My guess is, they’re trying to tell Trump, the outsider who is neither compromised nor beholden to anyone nor a party to any deep state money-making schemes, just exactly who runs the games in Washington, and not to mess with the status quo.

    I’m watching closely for signs that they’ve ‘got’ to Trump. No sign yet.

    They had Barry O, former employee of ‘Company’ front Business International Corporation, by the balls from the get go. High fives all round in the Langley c-suite back in November 2008, I’ll bet.

    Comment by Ex-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 14, 2017 @ 6:45 am

  4. “this is causing me to revisit seriously my previously dismissive attitude to those conspiracy theories”: and any others? Bobby Kennedy? Watergate? The shooting of Reagan? Oklahoma City? 9/11 even? The trail of death in Clinton circles?

    If the CIA are happy to stage a slow-motion coup against Trump, why assume that they have any inhibitions at all?

    If this is all a Russian enterprise aimed at getting the CIA to undermine itself, it does seem to be a great success.

    Comment by dearieme — January 14, 2017 @ 9:56 am

  5. Looking for an analogy, it occurred to me that I might refer to him as Trumpus Gracchus in future.
    Do you think he might know the story of the Gracchus brothers?

    Comment by dearieme — January 14, 2017 @ 10:08 am

  6. conspiracy theories: I missed the assassination of Martin Luther King off my list.

    Comment by dearieme — January 14, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

  7. Professor, how do you feel about Trump’s idea of removing the sanctions on Russia?

    Comment by aaa — January 14, 2017 @ 2:20 pm

  8. @aaa-Removing them unconditionally would be a bad idea. But that’s not what Trump has said. He made a vague reference to removing them if the Russians were “helpful,” whatever that means. Look, Trump is a transactional guy. Sanctions are a bargaining chip.

    I would also say that he’s not an idiot, and he realizes that there would be a huge political price to pay if he did not get something YUGE in return. A deal that is not pretty one-sided–in favor of the US–would be seized upon as validating the allegations that he owes Putin. This would undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.

    He is trying to walk a fine line. On the one hand, if he says that he will stick with the sanctions regardless, he will be perceived as caving to pressure, which will invite more pressure in the future. On the other, if he relents on sanctions too easily, he will validate the claims that he is a Putin pawn.

    I don’t know how he’ll work this, but I will say one thing: it won’t be subtle, and it’s likely to be confusing as hell.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 14, 2017 @ 4:54 pm

  9. Hi Prof!

    Having no skin in this particular game (and sitting way, way outside the US of A) I must confess I find the battle between the Deep State (if I can borrow from Turkey the appellation for the confluence of military and intelligence agencies) and Trump to be entertaining and I believe it promises to be more so.

    In my view, while Trump may be President, he will always have a hard time pleading propriety, decorum and the need to respect the Constitution. Come on! When he takes the oath on January 20, he’ll treat it the same way that he does all his promises – to pay bankers, contractors and the rest, to contribute to charity …. Is there anyone who seriously thinks Trump will all of a sudden turn honest (as Old Abe Lincoln) on Jan 20? So he has no chance of seizing the moral high ground.

    Accordingly, my money is on the Deep State and – for a laugh – I’ll hazard that January 20 will mark another escalation in the effort to de-legitimize and dislodge the Donald. How about the leaking of one of his tax returns to mark the Inauguration? That would really deflate the Trump bluster and turn his fake tan orange a bright shade of pink.

    Comment by Simple Simon — January 15, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

  10. @Simple Simon:

    I’d feel much more comfortable with the battle if the deep state, as you will, was competent.

    Trump will do much better than people expect. He’s willing to break the rules just as much as his opponents and he’s a much more adroit retail politician than the deep state.

    Schumer is shaping up to be the worst opposition leader Democrats could have picked (Wyden for example could have been much better). He’ll play great in NY/CA/MA but he’s not exactly winning support in PA/MI/OH. If you want to double down on the bicoastal strategy that’s led to the current defeat, he’s your man.

    Comment by FTR — January 15, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

  11. Schumer remarked the other day that Trump was reckless to oppose the intelligence people because they’d be sure to get their revenge. Was that Schumer’s confession that he preferred to be a coward in the face of the CIA?

    Comment by dearieme — January 15, 2017 @ 5:30 pm

  12. Maybe Trump should just disband the CIA.

    Comment by Green As Grass — January 16, 2017 @ 7:12 am

  13. How long before we hear the ‘T’ word, or maybe it should be the ‘TR’ word? – TREASON.

    ‘Traitor Trump’ has a certain ring to it, n’est-ce pas?

    Comment by Simple Simon — January 16, 2017 @ 8:19 am

  14. @Simon–It is happening. John Schindler has been flogging this, going so far as to call for someone to put a bullet into Trump. I have seen others call Trump a traitor. I anticipate that it will go mainstream.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 16, 2017 @ 10:04 am

  15. There was an excellent interview on BBC radiotoday with General Hayden. Conspicuously absent from his endorsements of Deep State picks on Team Trump was – you know who -Mike Flynn. So Pompeo is O.K. Coats is O.K. Stony silence on Flynn. From which I deduce that the Deep State does not want Flynn in office. More ‘kopromat’ leaks until Trump drops him? (Obviously the dossiers were nonsense. I read them as warnings to Trump that the Deep State has genuine kopromat. Evidently Trump is not the kind of guy to pay heed.)

    Comment by Simple Simon — January 16, 2017 @ 10:39 am

  16. @Simon-Flynn was hated by the rest of the intelligence establishment–this is why he was ousted. I imagine that they hate him all the more because he was largely right re ISIS. Either they were wrong, or worse, were doing what some have alleged (including the Russians): deliberately building ISIS as an anti-Assad force.

    There is an old description of Russian/Soviet politics (often attributed to Churchill)–“dogs fighting under the carpet.” That is exactly what is going to happen between Trump and his people and the intelligence bureaucracy, especially the CIA. We will see the evidence of the battle primarily in the form of leaks.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 16, 2017 @ 11:08 am

  17. “That is exactly what is going to happen between Trump and his people and the intelligence bureaucracy, especially the CIA. We will see the evidence of the battle primarily in the form of leaks.”

    Sit back and grab the popcorn 🙂

    Comment by Simple Simon — January 16, 2017 @ 11:12 am

  18. “They have sanctions against Russia — let’s see if we can strike a few good deals with Russia. I think there should be less nuclear weapons and they have to be reduced significantly, that’s part of it.

    So the Donald is testing the waters on the “yuge deal”. Surely sounds more impressive than Michael “Reset” McFaul’s “but we got great logistics to Afghanistan in return for just a couple of wars in Europe”, but not much different on substance.

    Comment by Ivan — January 17, 2017 @ 8:10 am

  19. If he wants to drain the swamp then an Executive Order tonight moving the capital of the US from DC to Plato Missouri would do the trick. I thought maybe Barrow Alaska or Grand Forks ND would be good candidates with the benefit of eliminating the BS about Global Warming but Plato MO is the demographic center so strong case to relocate there.

    Comment by pahoben — January 20, 2017 @ 5:38 am

  20. You can see a potential outcomes in the Hunger Games with Trump in the role of Katnis Everdeen leading a rebellion against the Capital.

    Comment by pahoben — January 21, 2017 @ 4:25 am

  21. Just inaugurated and already the Vatican has also essentially invoked Hitler in compliance with Godwin’s Law.

    Comment by pahoben — January 23, 2017 @ 5:08 am

  22. Wow I give Spicer a 10 on first press conference.

    Comment by pahoben — January 23, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

  23. Cuban polling numbers not good for dems so erect a fence to stop them.

    Comment by pahoben — January 23, 2017 @ 2:36 pm

  24. It would be clearer instead of Ivy League schools to rename as the Komsomol schools. An elite liberal arts degree is better referred to as a Komsomol degree. Confusing as it stands now.

    Comment by pahoben — January 25, 2017 @ 2:10 am

  25. Musk is on alert slobbering over the prospect of infrastructure funding.

    Comment by pahoben — January 25, 2017 @ 11:49 am

  26. His government hand out sense is tingling in a big way.

    Comment by pahoben — January 25, 2017 @ 11:56 am

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