President Donald Trump is right: The deep state is alive and well. But it is not the sinister, anti-democratic cabal of his fever dreams. It is, rather, a collection of patriotic public servants — career diplomats, scientists, intelligence officers and others — who, from within the bowels of this corrupt and corrupting administration, have somehow remembered that their duty is to protect the interests, not of a particular leader, but of the American people.
Fiona Hill, Michael McKinley and the whistleblower who effectively initiated the impeachment investigation — when these folks saw something suspicious, they said something. Their aim was not to bring down Trump out of personal or political animus but to rescue the Republic from his excesses. Those who refuse to silently indulge this president’s worst impulses qualify as heroes — and deserve our gratitude.
Throughout the Trump presidency, there has been a trickle of fed-up individuals willing to step up and protest the administration’s war on science, expertise and facts.
In July, Rod Schoonover left his job as an analyst for the State Department after the administration blocked the submission to Congress of his report on the national security implications of climate change.
Also in July, Joel Clement, formerly the director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that the administration had reassigned him to an accounting position in retaliation for publicly speaking out on the potential dangers of climate change to Alaska Native communities.
In August, Lewis Ziska, a veteran plant physiologist with the Agriculture Department, quit in protest over the administration’s efforts to bury his findings about the negative effect of rising levels of carbon dioxide on the nutrient content of rice. “You get the sense that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views,” Ziska told Politico at the time. “That’s so sad. I can’t even begin to tell you how sad that is.”
With an impeachment inquiry underway in the House, the risks of breaking ranks with the president are higher than ever. Trump prides himself on punching back against perceived enemies, publicly suggesting that “spies” and “traitors” and people who turn “rat” deserve to have their lives and their families destroyed. Small wonder that few congressional Republicans have dared express even gentle concern over Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior.
But still the patriots come. Top of the list, of course, is the still-anonymous whistleblower who touched off the impeachment drama by registering his concerns about Trump’s clandestine effort to pressure Ukraine into conducting investigations that would benefit his reelection campaign. The concerns enumerated in the complaint have since been verified and magnified by multiple administration insiders, despite the White House’s stonewalling mandate.
On Monday, Congress heard from Hill, the former top national security adviser on Russia and Europe, who detailed how Trump had done an end run around his own national security team, putting Ukraine policy in the hands of unqualified dilettantes like Gordon Sondland, whose $1 million donation to the Trump inaugural basically bought him the title of ambassador to the European Union, and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and favorite henchman.
On Wednesday, McKinley, a top adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until this month, told Congress that he had resigned in frustration over the administration’s disparaging and shunting aside career diplomats, as well as its using ambassadors overseas to advance the president’s reelection aims. (He put it more diplomatically, as one would expect.)
A week and a half ago, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testified that Trump prematurely recalled her in May, allegedly as a result of a whisper campaign by Giuliani and some of his associates, two of whom were arrested Oct. 9 on federal charges of violating campaign finance laws. “I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” Yovanovitch told lawmakers. “But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Presumably, Yovanovitch, a veteran diplomat and actual expert on Ukraine, had also proved an annoying hindrance to Giuliani pursuing his shadow agenda.
Right on cue, Trump’s lackeys are responding to such breaches of fealty by going on the attack. In a media briefing on Thursday, the White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, dismissed the witnesses who had spoken to impeachment investigators: “What you are seeing now, I believe, is a group of mostly career bureaucrats who are saying, ‘You know what, I don’t like President Trump’s politics, so I’m going to participate in this witch hunt.’”
That may be what Mulvaney hears when he listens to these men and women. But many, many others will hear veteran public servants appalled by an administration that continues to subvert the public interest to the whims of a president who has mistaken himself for a king.
This is Trump’s deep state. For the sake of the nation, the American public should be clamoring for more patriots to join the conspiracy.