By Frank Gormlie
Hearing all the recent news accounts about how elements in the highest reaches of our top national law enforcement agency – the FBI – have worked to flip the Presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, made me pull up a definition of “coup d’etat“.
Wow, you might say, how extreme, how hyperbolic – how over the top you’re getting these last few days of the election campaign.
But isn’t it a significant intervention into this election when James Comey, the head of the FBI, announces that the agency is reopening its investigation into a new batch of emails that may involve Hillary Clinton – a bombshell meant to disparage her certainly? And isn’t it intervention when sources within the FBI leak damaging and false information about Clinton to both right-wing media and the Trump campaign?
And when an anchor and reporter on Fox News announced that according to his FBI “sources”, Clinton is likely to be criminally indicted, and this is supposedly confirmed by others close to the agency, and when Trump surrogate and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani brags that the Trump campaign knew all about this -including the Comey letter to Congress – weeks before it was made public – this in intervention.
Now all this was retracted and apologies made by the Fox reporter, but the damage to Clinton was done.
So, is all of this an attempted coup d’etat by FBI agents immersed in Trumpland to throw the election to their favorite candidate?
Here it is, here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster – a full definition of coup d’état:
a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially : the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group
Now, of course, there hasn’t been any “violent overthrow”of the government – but look at the other part of the definition – the “alteration of an existing government by a small group“.
The effort by what some call “the fifth column” – those Trump supporters within the FBI – if they had been successful in causing Hillary Clinton to lose the election, an election that most polls and pundits say she will win – certainly that would have been a coup d’etat.
The top national police and law enforcement agency in America steps in and causes an “alteration” to an otherwise peaceful and legal transition of government – “an existing government”. And certainly, this small group – this cabal of FBI agents, investigators and whomever who have been leaking or trying to leak damaging information to Fox News and other reporters – stuff they hope will spin the Clinton campaign off its tracks – certainly they qualify as a “small group”.
So, there you have it. If they had succeeded in their apparent goals, derail the election away from the first woman president,- or if they are successful – this fifth column, this platoon of palace guards would have carried out a virtual coup d’etat.
Of course, there has been pushback from all corners of these efforts to intervene in the election. The Fox News reporter, Bret Baier , who “broke” the story about how the FBI was about to indict Clinton, did a full retraction with apology on the air, Friday. Rudy backtracked on his claims – or some of them.
And now we’re hearing about “revolution” and “open revolts” inside the FBI – turmoil that has been going on for months, in fact, ever since FBI head James Comey decided to end the investigation into Clinton’s emails. This decision so enraged the Clinton-haters within the agency, that these rogue, rebellious agents began their efforts to undermine the election results.
With their leaks, their surreptitious disclosures to reporters and members of the Trump campaign (Rudy), their falsehoods, their use of a white-supremacist author’s book about the Clintons as a basis to open an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, this clique broke Department rules and government laws.
This discredited book, Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweizer, again, is what these rogue agents based their Hillary Clinton / Clinton Foundation investigation on. And who is Schweizer? He is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, an organization co-founded and chaired by Steve Bannon, the CEO of the Trump campaign. Bannon ran the white nationalist Brietbart News before he moved over to the campaign.
These Trump supporters within the FBI have broken into our Presidential election campaign and are attempting to influence its outcome.
This, by definition, is at least an attempt at a coup.
We’re not the only ones raising the question of a coup. Mark Summer, writing at Daily Kos (11/4/16) called it this way:
In some ways, the attempt of a group inside the FBI to swing the election may be the closest thing to a coup attempt the US has experienced—a faction inside the government using its power and assumed knowledge in an attempt to spread election-altering propaganda. But in even more ways, it’s simply pitiful.
Summer does conclude:
If the revolt inside the FBI is an attempted coup, it’s a failed coup. After a momentary jiggle, the polls are showing that voters have absorbed, and are rejecting, the flurry of false information thrown off by the Trump-at-all-cost faction within the FBI.
The end result of the fact-twisting and rumor-mongering doesn’t look to be overturning the election, but it may well be overturning the FBI and giving it a good shake.
Steven Rosenfeld at AlterNet titled his Nov. 4th piece, “Did Rogue FBI Agents Attempt Presidential Election Coup by Reopening the Clinton Email Investigation?”
Did Trump allies inside the FBI attempt a coup on the eve of the 2016 presidential election?
That is the latest question that comes as new details emerged Friday, following confirmation of FBI agents’ illegal leaks about the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the FBI director’s similarly illegal interference in the election by revealing the FBI wanted to reopen its probe.
His rather mild conclusion is still worth considering:
… it is clear that the FBI is breaking the law by agents talking about ongoing investigations and its director interfering in a presidential election. And … there are open lines between the New York City bureau and the Trump campaign.
The only question is, did Giuliani push his allies inside the FBI to force Comey’s hand? Or did Hillary-hating agents act on their own to please the Trump campaign and get even with their Washington-based director who shut down their investigation last summer? Either way, it is an appalling scenario that shows the most egregious abuses of power.
Also on Friday, the 4th, Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast , asked, “What if FBI Rogues Subvert the Election?” Tomasky details how there’s been a strong anti-Clinton animosity inside the bureau going way back to the 1990s. He explains that the rogue agents were upset with Comey’s decision not to move against Hillary on the emails:
It’s [the FBI agents] their job as agents to accept that decision. They’re not supposed to be in revolt against their superior’s edict, and they’re certainly not supposed to try to tip a presidential election.
But this is exactly what they’re doing.
Then in the wee hours of Saturday, November 5th, Whitney Snyder, Editorial Director at The Huffington Post, published this article, “It Sure Looks Like FBI Renegades Are Trying To Swing The Presidential Election“. Snyder observes:
Three days before a historic election, a disturbing twist has emerged: the possibility that agents in the country’s preeminent investigative service are attempting to swing the outcome.
Snyder finds this episode of the election campaign “one of the most unsettling developments yet”, and that’s saying a lot, considering what has come down over these last 500 plus days of the campaign. If Clinton wins, he stills a troubling future.
While Comey’s decision to write to Congress less than two weeks before the election was misguided and unnerving, it’s the possibility of a revenge-seeking shadow element within the agency that is much more troubling. That these investigators may have forced Comey’s hand suggests that they constitute a threat that will outlast the election.
Even if Clinton wins, she will oversee an FBI employing at least a small number of agents who appear to have meddled in an election. The rot will persist.
The FBI’s history is littered with unsavory acts ? from blackmailing Martin Luther King Jr. to eavesdropping on at least 12 Supreme Court justices. The decision by some of its agents to intervene in the most high-stakes election in generations joins that odious list.
In a campaign that has seen the steady erosion of longstanding political norms, this is one of the most unsettling developments yet.
Mike Whitney at CounterPunch takes it further:
By inserting himself into the democratic process, Comey has ignored traditional protocols for postponing such announcements 60-days prior to an election, shrugged off the counsel of his bosses at the DOJ, and tilted the election in Trump’s favor.
His action is as close to a coup d’état as anything we’ve seen in the U.S. since the Supreme Court stopped the counting of ballots in Florida in 2000 handing the election to George W. Bush.
It’s clear now that these leaks – and who knows what else now – by these FBI agents is the worst abuse of the FBI and its resources since the time of Richard Nixon and his Attorney General John Mitchell, when Nixon was able to use the FBI in abusing his perceived opponents, those on the infamous Nixon “Enemies List”.
Dan Roberts, writing from Washington for The Guardian , asks “Will Hillary Clinton lose the election because of the FBI email investigation?” He details and corroborates that Clinton has already suffered because of the falsehoods leaked by the rebel FBI agents and the damaging innuendos in Comey’s letter.
Pollster Gary Langer stated:
“About a third of likely voters say they are less likely to support Clinton given FBI director James Comey’s disclosure. Given other considerations, 63% say it makes no difference.”
It was Wayne Barrett in The Daily Beast who began the journalistic pushback with his initial disclosures about the fifth columnists within the New York office of the FBI and Giuliani’s close ties to them.This is a must read.
Even Bill Mahear, the HBO host and comedian silenced the laughter on his show Friday night. He became very serious in a memorable HBO moment, when he said his show is a comedy but that the political campaign before Election Day was not funny. Maher railed about FBI involvement in the election, and called it “fascism”. “It’s a coup!,” he exclaimed while discussing what the FBI was doing; it’s “a slow-moving right-wing coup” by Republicans in an illegal effort to elect Trump. Maher also described Trump as a “sociopath,” “orange Hitler” and a “useful idiot of the Russians.”
This is all “America’s descent into Banana Republican-ism“, says Michael Cohen at the Boston Globe
We’re not there yet, you may sigh. So, we have nothing to fear, right? The illegal efforts to alter the election by this small group of agents has been blocked, hasn’t it? And aren’t there now Congressional calls for investigations into just what Rudy Guliani knew about the “bombshell 2 weeks before it became public?
Yet, Trump is still out there – he was out there Friday staging campaign rallies in three different states. He is still claiming that Hillary is under investigation by the FBI and will soon be indicted. His crowds still roar back in approval.
Who’s to stop him? It’s not like other Republicans have rejected these efforts by the roguesters within the FBI. Just on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) urged Director Comey to disclose publicly if he finds a “smoking gun” in the newly discovered batch of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. TPM
The big corporate media? After much of this big news story broke in places like The Daily Beast and on MSNBC on Thursday, there hasn’t one peep of this monster of a story – this scandal about FBI agents’ attempts to intercede in the election – since in either the Los Angeles Times or the San Diego Union-Tribune over the last two days. The U-T did print a short article about Giuliani denials.
Where’s the outrage about an attempted coup if many Americans aren’t aware of it?
But the damage has been done, as Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway glibly told Brian Williams on msnbc, the damage has been done.
“If you’re not scared to death about what’s happening in America right now, you’re not paying attention.”
Michael Cohen, over at the Boston Globe, expressed it best:
And what if Clinton wins? Democracy is likely to find itself under continued assault. Republicans in the Senate are now making clear that they have no intention of even allowing a vote on a Supreme Court justice pick made by Hillary Clinton. The GOP has gone from saying they won’t allow a vote on Merrick Garland before this election to saying they won’t fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court until a Republican is in the White House.
Some Republicans are floating the idea of impeaching Clinton before she’s even been elected president. Others are talking about trying her for treason and executing her. These are stunning, never before seen attacks on our democracy. And, increasingly, they are barely getting covered by major media news outlets, which seem more inclined to chase their own tails on the Clinton e-mail story.
I’m not sure what more evidence one needs to see that we have entered a very dark and dangerous place in this country, in which one political party has now repeatedly demonstrated that it has no interest in maintaining even a fig leaf of adherence to long-standing political norms or ensuring the functioning of democratic governance.
If you’re not scared to death about what’s happening in America right now, you’re not paying attention. Like no other time in modern history, this country and its most basic political institutions are at risk. And like no other time in history, the will of the American people is the only thing standing in the way of a dark and undemocratic future for this country.