In mid February, a worker at the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency filed a whistleblower complaint that HHS had bungled the response to the Covid 19 (AKA coronavirus). That complaint only scratches the surface as far as the real concerns of US capitalism regarding Trump. Like other government departments, Trump has massively depleted the federal government of scientists and other health experts. According to the Washington Post “In the first two years of the Trump administration, more than 1,600 federal scientists left government… That represents a 1.5 percent drop, compared with the 8 percent increase during the same period in the Obama administration.”
Initially, Trump did this in order to decimate any ability of the government to regulate companies as far as their destruction of the environment and of human health. But there is a side benefit that Trump is now realizing, a benefit that he is pursuing in all branches of the federal government. That benefit can be seen in the testimony of Dr. William Walters of the federal Bureau of Health Services. He testified regarding the whistleblower complaint: “Every precaution has been taken. I can say unequivocally that everyone involved with those evacuations [regarding Covid 19] were properly equipped and trained.”
In other words, as opposed to witnesses in the impeachment hearings, Trump has found a trusted liar in Doctor Walters. Trump is moving to either fill all government agencies with more Dr. Walterses, or so intimidate and bribe those already in those agencies that they’ll fall in line. Oaklandsocialist reported a month ago on how Trump was carrying that out in the State Department and the National Security Council. Since then, he’s gone further. It went like this:
In early February, a senior official of the National Intelligence Service told congress that Russia was already intervening in the coming US presidential elections. They were doing so to help secure the reelection of Trump, which naturally enraged Trump. Not the fact that Putin’s Russia was doing so but the fact that it should be reported to congress. Trump’s response was to fire the director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and replace him with Richard Grenell.
The former has a long time career in this branch of government and is trusted by the tops of the US capitalist class to obtain the information they need on foreign governments and other foreign forces, information they need to successfully advance the interests of the US capitalist class as they see those interests. The Washington Post reported Maguire is “a career official who is respected by the intelligence rank and file.” In other words, Maguire knows what he’s doing. He had been given that post in August, but he was always Trump’s second choice as he was not considered a “Trump loyalist”.
In his place, Trump has now installed the political hack Richard Grenell. Grenell is presently Trump’s ambassador to Germany. Previously, he had founded “Capital Media Partners” (CMP) in 2009 and headed that company until 2017. Wikipedia describes CMP as “an international strategic media and public affairs consultancy”. He and his company represented such unsavory and corrupt governments as those of Nigeria and Moldova. The Washington Post reports “Grenell’s public relations firm was [also] paid to do work for a U.S. nonprofit funded almost entirely by the Hungarian government led by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban.” Although he was in effect a lobbyist for foreign powers, he never registered as such as required by law. In other words, Grenell is cut from the same cloth as the founder of the “torturers’ lobby”, Paul Manafort.
One of Grenell’s first actions in that position was to anger the entire European political establishment by giving an interview to Breitbart in which he indicated his wish to help advance the far right, white nationalist forces on the continent. As the new acting director of national intelligence, one of his first acts was to appoint Kash Patel as his senior advisor. Patel, a former staffer for Trump loyalist Representative Devin Nunes, had been one of those who was instrumental in trying to debunk Russian intervention in the 2016 elections. It was on that basis that Trump put him on the National Security Council and evidently moved to replace Alexander Vindman with him regarding Ukraine intelligence.
Neither Grenell nor Patel have any experience in the spy/“intelligence” game. In other words, the US capitalist class has no reason to have any confidence in their competence; it’s simply a matter of Trump having confidence in their loyalty to him, personally, rather than the overall interests of US capitalism.
Nor is Trump stopping with Grenell.
In a highly significant more, Trump is reportedly planning to install Johnny McEntee as the head of his Presidential Personnel Office (PPO). McEntee had been Trump’s “body man” (or personal servant) but was run off by Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly because of his (McEntee’s) apparent gambling addiction. McEntee will head the agency that is responsible for vetting all presidential appointments, and he has reportedly said that “PPO was going to take a look at all appointees at some point and re-vet them to see if they’ve been disloyal in any way.” In other words, he will ensure that all new appointees are pure Trump lackeys. As one of his first moves, McEntee took on James Bacon as his second in command. Twenty-three years old and a college senior, Bacon will clearly fit the mold. He will be replacing seventy-something year old Katja Bullock who at that age must have developed her own mini-base within the agency.
The Washington Post commented on the appointment of McEntee: “What began as a campaign of retribution against officials who participated in the impeachment process has evolved into a full-scale effort to create an administration more fully in sync with Trump’s id and agenda…. civil servants will be targeted as well, but it would be harder to dislodge them than removing political appointees. Civil servants, however, could be sidelined in other ways.” According to the NY Times McEntee is “the newest power center at the White House”, replacing the role of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. (The fact that Mulvaney was never given the full title is significant.)
The plot thickens even further when one considers the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu for the post of undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes. On February 12, 2020, Trump withdrew the nomination following the circulation of a memo written by Senate Republican staffer Barbara Ledeen and signed by, among others, Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court (in)Justice Clarence Thomas. The memo itself is the work of a group of some 30 far right activists called Groundswell. The memo reportedly condemned Liu for:
- Not acting on criminal referrals of some of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers.
- Signing “the sentencing filing asking for jail time” for Gen. Michael Flynn (a friend of Ledeen’s).
- Holding a leadership role in a women’s lawyers networking group that Ledeen criticized as “pro-choice and anti-Alito.”
- Not indicting former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
- Dismissing charges against “violent inauguration protesters who plotted to disrupt the inauguration.”
Groundswell was also apparently instrumental in the ouster of national security advisor H.R. McMaster. Like the other generals formerly in the Trump administration, McMaster had been considered “one of the adults in the room”. In other words, he was willing to stand up to Trump. He was replaced by John Bolton, who did the same (although coming from a different angle). The new advisor, Robert O’Brien, will simply tell Trump what he wants to hear.
So, what started out as science denialism has now become political denialism. Since science denialism helped open the doors to increased profits for many capitalists, it is acceptable to them. But denialism of what other capitalist states are up to is not.
Especially the changes in the various intelligence services are a matter of extreme concern to the more sane wings of the US capitalist class. How, after all, can their representatives carry out policies that benefit them if they don’t know what is happening in the world? How if they have to rely on Trump loyalists who base themselves on every crackpot conspiracy theory that comes down the pipe? How if these new appointees lack basic experience and aren’t competent (to carry out their interests) by any stretch of the imagination?
“Category 5 Hurricane”
Tried and trusted Thomas Friedman gives a sense of the alarm they must feel. He quoted “non partisan intelligence professional Bill McRaven”, who called this gutting of the intelligence services “a four alarm fire, a category 5 hurricane.” Friedman went on to condemn the Republicans in no uncertain terms. ‘But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried”
In other words, it’s not only Trump; it’s also the main party through which the US capitalist class has preferred to rule for 150 years. That party is “dead and buried”. Past redemption and gone forever.
In the past, the US capitalist class would have easily ousted such a president through the normal election process. But now the defeat of Trump in November is very far from guaranteed. Right now, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are giving Trump -150 odds to win reelection. That means they think he’s going to win and will pay you $150 to your $100 if you bet he’ll lose and you are right. The oddsmakers are giving Sanders about even odds of becoming the Democratic nominee.
US capitalism in crisis
This is the crisis in which US capitalism finds itself. It is difficult to imagine that it can accept this without a struggle. But what can it do other than throw its weight behind a 77 year-old man who can barely get a full sentence out (Joe Biden) and hope everything works out. A minority – the more crazed wing of the US capitalist class – has thrown sanity into the toilet and senses their chance to make even more profits next quarter. They are the ones backing Trump.
Oaklandsocialist has pointed out many times Trump’s tendency towards one-man dictatorship. These new appointments are leading further down that road.
As Leon Trotsky wrote: “History says to the working class ‘You must know that unless you cast down the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class), you will perish beneath the ruins of the capitalist civilization. Try, solve this task!’”