So now a new furor has broken out over the House Intelligence Committee breaking precedent and releasing its “Nunes Memo”. Is this just a tempest in a teapot, or is it the tip of the iceberg?
The memo claims to prove that the FBI was prejudiced all along against Trump and the Republicans in their investigating Carter Page, former foreign policy advisor to Trump. It proves no such thing, as this article among others shows. So, why the big flap, and why should workers care?
Basically, what Trump and the Republicans are doing is trying to undermine the moral authority the FBI and the CIA have with most Americans. Yes, we know the real role of these two institutions. You don’t have to do anything more than mention “cointelpro” and “Fred Hampton” to understand the FBI. In the former case, they set about destabilizing the left movement of the 1970s, including framing up people on the left. In the latter, they collaborated with the Chicago police to murder the great Black Panther Party leader, Fred Hampton. Meanwhile, they were busy harassing Martin Luther King, jr. As for the CIA, they helped organize military coups all around the world, from Iran to Chile.
But the great bulk of white, middle America, see these
institutions as protecting “our country” from threats. During the Cold War, the main perceived threat was Communism. Now, the main ones are “Islamic terrorism” and the drug gangs. This perception is important in binding millions of people in the US to what they see as their country and their government, which really means the US capitalist class.
Trump and Republicans
Meanwhile, the Republican Party is close to being totally captured by Trump, meaning by the most extreme (and minority up until now) wing of the capitalist class such as the Mercer family. They bring in tow the religious fanatics, racists, crazed conspiracy theorists and those who are willing to accept this as long as they think it will get them a job. In other words, US politics-as-usual, which is geared to compromise between the various capitalist factions, is vastly weakened.
Now, Trump and the Republicans are creating a new threat, or rather are exacerbating an already-existing one, and this is what release of the Nunes/House Intelligence Committee memo represents. The intent is to help delegitimize the FBI in the eyes of their supporters, to lead to its being seen as a political instrument – not as a political instrument of the capitalist class as a whole against the working class, against people of color, against the left – but as a political instrument of one capitalist party against the other. Once this claim is spread, then Trump and the Republicans will try to move to do exactly what they claim the Democrats have done; they will try to seize the FBI as their own institution, to be used to protect their president. Or, more precisely, Trump personally will do this, just as he has more or less done with the Republican Party.
How can they do that?
Once that perception is developed among their true believers, then he will have grounds to get rid of Mueller possibly by first getting rid of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who would be replaced with somebody who is totally pliant to Trump. Also caught up in this would be FBI chief Christopher Wray, unless he swears fealty to King Trump. In other words, it would put the FBI under total control of the crazed Donald Trump. It would mean a major step in the direction of one-person rule. That is the meaning of the continued warnings about a “constitutional crisis” if Trump takes these steps.
The question is, “will he?”
It’s hard to see how he won’t. He is guilty of exactly what he’s charged with, and more. Not only did his campaign collaborate with a rival imperialist power, he personally has served as a money launderer for their capitalists for many years. And to this day, many of his policies reflect those links. Just recently, for example, he chose not to institute new sanctions against Russia, sanctions that were in fact required by a law passed by his own congress. Socialists should not support such sanctions, but this inaction by Trump once again reflects his links.
Trump: “ruling by fiat”
A secondary consideration is the characteristics of the political leader involved. Take, for instance, when US capitalism decided they could and needed to embark on military adventures around the world. They frauded the 2000 presidential election to ensure that a president was put in place who was willing and able to do that – George Bush. In this case, as the Washington Times has noted, Trump “expected being president would be… ruling by fiat, exacting tribute…”
So it’s hard to see how Trump won’t walk further down this road. Along the way, he will continue to use his office to enrich himself, personally, at the expense of his class in general. He will pursue policies that are not those chosen by the majority of his class. In other words, he will act as the bonapartist that he is by nature.
Can the Democrats stop Trump? A minority in both houses of congress, they lack the legislative power. Nor is it certain that they will gain a majority in either house in this year’s elections. And here, another issue comes into play: If they seem poised to run the table in the elections, how far would Trump and the rest of his party go to stop that? It is certainly possible that they would vastly accelerate voter suppression. What would the Democrats do then? If the 2000 vote fraud in Florida, through which George Bush stole the election, is any model, the Democrats would do everything in their power to suppress any street protests and rely on the federal courts. These are the same courts that Trump is busy stacking and there is almost zero chance they would stop such voter suppression.
So, here’s a perspective: Mass outrage develops over widespread vote suppression and people start to take to the streets. The Democratic Party leadership does everything in its power to stop this and a division starts to open up between those who recently got involved in Democratic Party politics in order to get Trump out and the tops of the Party. The union leadership would most likely in general side with the Party leadership, but there, too, a division would start to open up.
Through this process a new political formation would start to develop. How? Where would it lead? Would it start to become a new political party? And what about Trump & Co.? Would they call out the National Guard? Would they be able to repress such a movement and, if so, how far would the suppression go?
So many questions.
So few answers.
Update: Since this article was written, the New York Times published an article entitled “Trump’s Unparalleled War on a Pillar of Society: Law Enforcement”. The article bluntly confirms Oaklandsocialist’s analysis. They write: “the president has engaged in a scorched-earth assault on the pillars of the criminal justice system in a way that no other occupant of the White House has done….”
They refer to “fears that he was tearing at the credibility of some of the most important institutions in American life to save himself…. more than a dozen officials who work at or recently left the Justice Department and the F.B.I. said they feared that the president was mortgaging the credibility of those agencies for his own short-term political gain….
“Since taking office, Mr. Trump has assailed a number of major institutions in society, including Congress, the courts, the news media, intelligence agencies, Hollywood, professional sports and even his own party. But the attacks on law enforcement are tied up with his own political fate as investigators bear down.”
Worst of all, from the point of view of the capitalists, and why they think he must be stopped, is this: “Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and prosecutor who left the Justice Department at the end of last year… said he worried that juries might be more skeptical of testimony from agents even in criminal trials unrelated to Mr. Trump. “All it takes to sink a case,” he said, “is for one juror to disbelieve the F.B.I.”