It is not difficult to conclude that we now have a conspiracy theorist as president of the United States. During Barack Obama’s presidency Donald Trump promised to find proof that he was not born in the United States and claimed that he had sent people to Hawaii to find the evidence. If he really sent anyone, they never came back with the proof Trump expected. Then in March 2017, as president, he tweeted that Obama had ordered a wiretap on his phone at Trump Tower. That too was false.
Of late, Trump has engaged in several “tweet storms” claiming that a conspiracy by the “Deep State” exists and is doing all it can to delegitimize his presidency and get him removed from office. Trump believes the Deep State was instituted by John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, and includes all of the intelligence agencies. His latest claim is that before leaving office the Obama team planted an FBI spy in his campaign, tweeting a phrase his supporters would soon repeat: “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”
Contrary to being SPYGATE, it is becoming apparent that the FBI source (since exposed as academic Stefan Halper) was not put into Trump’s campaign for political purposes but was part of a legitimate counterintelligence operation investigating Russia’s election interference in the U.S. elections and involved three of his campaign aides, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis, whom Halper interviewed. Trump evidently believes that Halper’s interviews were an attempt to entrap his advisers to plant evidence about Russian collusion.
All of this is to be expected, because this is Donald Trump’s modus vivendi. What is more troubling, however, is that many intellectual Trump supporters are echoing the president and are making the same arguments. Roger Kimball, head of Encounter Books and editor of The New Criterion (for which I have written), argues like Trump that it was Brennan who put together a “working group… to stymie Trump’s campaign.”
He concludes that a “cabal of CIA and FBI operatives, including the director of the CIA, John Brennan, along with other members of the intelligence ‘community’ prominently including James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and various members of the Obama administration, colluded to undermine Donald Trump’s campaign.” The cabal, he believes, still exists. Now, Kimball writes, this group has shifted to “a desperate attempt to destroy his presidency.”
Kimball gives Trump’s tweets intellectual credibility. He goes to the extent of writing that “What is being exposed is the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States: the effort by highly placed—exactly how highly placed we still do not know—members of one administration to mobilize the intelligence services and police power of the state to spy upon and destroy first the candidacy and then, when that didn’t work, the administration of a political rival.”
And another prominent intellectual, the distinguished historian Victor Davis Hanson, writes that “If there is such a thing as a dangerous ‘deep state’ of elite but unelected federal officials who feel that they are untouchable and unaccountable, then John Brennan is the poster boy.” He adds that “Brennan is typical of the careerist deep state.” They operate “the psychological tactic known as ‘projection.’ To square their own circles of lying, our so-called best and brightest loudly accuse others of precisely the sins that they themselves commit as a matter of habit.”
Of course, the real reason for this narrative is, as Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in Lawfare, “to protect the president from a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation involving the activity of an adversary foreign power.” What we now have is an assault on the very institutions whose members seek to protect us: the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
And rather than protect sources who work for them and believe that their identities will be protected, the president and members of Congress, especially Devin Nunes, out their names—much in the same manner the far leftist rogue ex-CIA agent Philip Agee did in the 1960s, endangering the lives of many brave agents and individuals who cooperate with U.S. intelligence.
No one, however, has gone as far as Jerome R. Corsi, the self-proclaimed “investigative reporter” whose book during John Kerry’s presidential campaign, the “Swiftboating” of his Vietnam War record, badly damaged Kerry’s campaign, although the charges were false.
He is the same man who in 2012 wrote a column claiming Obama is a homosexual. This is the same Corsi who argued he had proof of Obama’s Kenyan birth, and that a pattern on a ring Obama wore proved that he was a secret Muslim. Corsi has a Ph.D. from Harvard and uses that credential to assert that his words have credibility.
Corsi is Washington correspondent for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars. Recently, he appeared on C-Span’s book show Afterwords, where he talked about his new book, Killing the Deep State. In a nutshell, here is how Corsi describes his thesis: “The central premise of this book is that President Trump is the target of a coup d’état being undertaken by the Deep State, including the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies that maintain a commitment to a globalist New World Order.”
From the moment Trump won, Corsi believes the “deep state” promised to interfere with his presidency, beginning with the NSA and Brennan at CIA placing Trump under electronic surveillance. Brennan, along with John Podesta, Corsi claims, began the story about “Russian collusion” to delegitimize the campaign. Robert Mueller was made special counsel because he is “a partisan deep state operative with close ties to FBI Director James Comey.” The deep state, Corsi believes, is seeking to force Trump to resign. If that doesn’t work, it plans to move to “impeachment or a charge under the 25th Amendment that he is mentally incompetent.”
Up to this point, Corsi’s book reads as a rehash of all the claims regularly made daily about the conspiracy by Trumpists. But he takes this one original, and scurrilous, step further. Should that not work, he claims, the deep state operatives have one measure left to take, and that is “‘executive action’—a CIA plan to assassinate Trump… the deep state’s last resort.”
This Corsi book does not have a mainstream publisher, as one of his earlier ones did. Instead, it has been published by a book division of the far right-wing Newsmax, run by Trump’s friend Christopher Ruddy. The company is carrying on a campaign to push his book, sending out to its lists a 12-page magazine-size flier on its behalf.
The flier says the book proves that there is underway a “coup d’état to take out President Trump,” orchestrated by Obama and his lieutenants. The publisher claims that although the book is a best-seller, The New York Times made a decision to leave it off its list, although for one week it begrudgingly listed it, under pressure, as No. 15, the last number on the paper’s list.
Best-seller or not, Corsi’s narrative is a compendium of all the conspiracy theories put together and is bound to be a basic source for Trump’s defenders, who are taking out the crude edges and using his analysis as the standard for showing why Trump’s presidency must be defended at all costs against the nefarious deep state. In today’s polarized climate, the more that narrative is spread and adopted, the more it poses a serious threat to our democracy.