Last December, for only the third time in American history, Congress impeached a U.S. President. In a party-line vote, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved two Articles of Impeachment, accusing President Trump of “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.”
Reasonable people have reasonable concerns about President Trump’s style and his often self-defeating tweets. Yet no one has been able to provide any evidence proving that President Trump committed an impeachable crime. The 675-day, $32 million Special Counsel investigation failed to find any evidence of alleged Russia “collusion” in the 2016 election. The House Impeachment Inquiry began by looking for “collusion” with Russia after the Mueller Report found none. Then they switched to accusations of bribery, then finally settled on “abuse of power” based not on evidence but hearsay, and “obstruction of Congress.”
No matter. As Congresswoman Maxine Waters said, “Impeachment is about whatever the Congress says it is. There is no law…”1 Waxing philosophical, the left claims that the real issue with the President is that he is “a threat to democracy.” They make the nebulous claim that President Trump is destroying American social and political “institutions.”
A recent article in The Washington Post by Joe Scarborough is typical. “Should we attach a bland label like ‘illiberalism’ to such a wretched public display when ‘fascism’ fits so much better?” he asks. Although he believes that one should “never” compare Trump to Hitler, he goes ahead and does so anyway, since “there are lessons that can be drawn from every era.” We can best understand America under President Trump, he claims, by studying “the erosion of democratic norms in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or the further strengthening of China and Russia’s autocratic regimes.” In the end, he believes that America’s institutions—the “sinews of our democracy”—will survive the Trump era, “but why tempt fate?”2
Many leftists conclude that, since President Trump is such a clear and present danger to America, any action that leads to his removal from office is, by definition, a good one. The end quite literally justifies the means. Some leftists have even taken this to the extreme of physical violence.
The result has been a “Resistance” that is systematically destroying the rule of law and American institutions, the very thing that they accuse the President of doing. Kimberley Strassel, an opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has written a useful but sobering book that documents this destruction, Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters are Breaking America. She shows how the real damage to the country and its institutions is coming from the thousands of government employees, politicians and their media enablers engaged in an unprecedented breaking of laws, sabotage of government functions, leaking of classified information to the press, attempts to rewrite election law, ignoring of legal precedent and even physical violence in the name of destroying President Trump.
In many ways, the “Resistance” is to politics what Antifa is to downtown streets. Like Antifa, members of the “Resistance” are not interested in solving actual problems. Rather, they wish to crash the system in the hope that out of anarchy and chaos, the “woke” left will defeat the right.
This corrosive process began long before the 2016 election, but since then has greatly accelerated. Most importantly, the book is not about President Trump per se. Strassel makes it clear that she is a conservative but with certain reservations about the President. She points out that our hyper-partisan political climate makes constructive criticism of President Trump or any political figure impossible. Her concern is that the “Resistance” is causing very real, permanent harm to America and her institutions that will last long after President Trump leaves office in 2021 or 2025.
A journalist by profession, Strassel’s book is very accessible. She calmly and thoroughly covers every major phase of the anti-Trump “Resistance”: the FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, FBI and Congressional obstruction, the Mueller investigation, the House Intelligence Committee investigations under Rep. Adam Schiff, the avalanche of lawsuits and judicial activism, and of course the infamous Kavanaugh Senate hearings.
Strassel’s chapter on former FBI director James Comey is particularly troubling. FBI probes into both the Clinton and Trump campaigns of 2016 broke all the internal FBI rules for investigations. Comey possibly broke the law when he spied on the Trump campaign based on a dossier of accusations against Trump that he knew was both full of falsehoods and paid for by the Clinton campaign.
Most Americans might not know that the FBI has a thick manual—the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide—that lays out standard operating procedures to protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. It contains rules for surveillance, collecting foreign intelligence and how to use “least intrusive methods” when conducting an investigation. These guidelines were thrown out the window by James Comey when, for the first time, he opened a counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign. The FBI even planted an informant in the Trump campaign. As Strassel put it, “A non-Russian professor [Joseph Misfud] repeated something to a third-tier campaign aide [George Papadopoulos], who repeated it to a random diplomat, who repeated it to the FBI. On this basis, we get a probe of a presidential campaign?”
Strassel gives many other examples. Nearly everyone who went to jail as a result of the FBI and Mueller Special Counsel investigations was found guilty of “process crimes.” A good example is Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. The FBI found no evidence of Russian “collusion” by any Trump official, so instead, Comey sent FBI agents to try to ensnare administration officials like Flynn. The FBI had already interviewed Flynn about his dealings with Russia, with transcripts. When they interviewed him a second time, they asked him very leading questions trying to coax him into contradicting himself so they could charge him with perjury, which is what they did. The FBI was motivated by bias against the Trump administration and not a desire to investigate an alleged crime.
In the past, the FBI enjoyed a warm relationship with Congressional committees. No matter if the Republicans or Democrats controlled Congress, issues of national security were above party. Now, Republicans have to use subpoenas to force the FBI to hand over even the most trivial of documents, and even then only after weeks and months of delay.
Another casualty is attorney-client privilege. It is an ancient principle from English Common Law that protects all communications between a lawyer and his client from the justice system. Robert Mueller bulldozed over this legal institution when he raided the office, home, and hotel room of President Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, looking for incriminating evidence.
It is impossible to deny the existence of a fifth-column in the government. The left freely admits, even boasts, of this “Deep State” as a valuable ally in their political war against the President. On NBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Senator Chuck Schumer said, “You take on the intelligence community—they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” A government bureaucracy that wages political warfare against a duly-elected chief executive should frighten all Americans who cherish the rule of law.
Strassel’s proposal for a solution to this crisis is for Americans to get more engaged with their government. That is certainly not a bad thing. Unfortunately, the political crisis runs much deeper than voter apathy. Whole swaths of the electorate cheer the illegal acts of obstruction done by the “Deep State” resistance. America is witnessing not the excesses of a few hotheads but a political insurrection in progress.
In the eyes of American conservatives, the “Resistance” is destroying respect for law enforcement. Strassel cites statistics that show a sharp increase in distrust for the FBI among Republican voters, traditionally those most likely to trust and respect law enforcement agencies like the FBI. The “Resistance” has permanently poisoned this respect, harming the mutual trust between the citizenry and law enforcement that is necessary for a healthy society.
For many conservatives, it is tempting to reduce America’s political crisis to the “Deep State” itself. By “draining the swamp,” some believe, the nation can defeat this rebellion. Unfortunately, it is a complex problem that has no simple solution. America is witnessing not a political fight, but a great philosophical and even a religious war between two Americas. On the one side are the forces of disorder, subversion, and anarchy that seek to turn the country into a socialist nightmare akin to Venezuela or Cuba. On the other side are those who defend truth, tradition, the rule of law, and God’s order rooted in the Ten Commandments. Conservative, God-fearing Americans cannot hope to win unless they see this fight in those terms.