Recently, this column has ignored many books focused on the chaos surrounding all things touched by President Donald Trump.
The disconnects among increasing cases of Covid-19, increasing unemployment nationwide and predictions of 200,000 U.S deaths by the start of deer season make Trump’s’s see-no-virus government hardly worth reading or writing about.
I surprised myself, however, by picking David Rohde’s “In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America’s ‘Deep State’” a Trump-focused book, now available at the Cannon Beach Library, which captured my interest – and, I hope, yours.
This occurred after three years during which the Washington Post newspaper documented Donald Trump’s increasingly mixed prevarications, fabrications, speculations, misinformation, disinformation and flat-out lies, along with random truths and facts.
He averaged six false or misleading claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018, more than 22 a day in 2019.
“In Deep” suggests that all these lies and misdirection might relate to the other great instability of the Trump administration: the staffing of cabinet departments with people who oppose the legislated missions of the organizations they were appointed to lead.
“In Deep” captured my attention after a week in which Trump and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr fired Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who oversaw several cases that worried and angered the President, including prosecution of Michael Cohen and the hush payments Trump made during his 2016 campaign.
To replace Berman, Trump nominated Jay Clayton, a former corporate attorney for such banks as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche, the latter being the only bank that loaned Trump cash following his multiple bankruptcies. Clayton presently heads the Securities and Exchange Commission, and golfs frequently with the President.
Also, late last week Michael Peck, a conservative filmmaker and ally of Steve Bannon, was confirmed earlier in June on a party-line vote as chairman of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He immediately took a hatchet to that nonpartisan agency.
In May, Peck was investigated by the D.C. attorney general to determine whether he enriched himself by sending $1.6 million from the Public Media Lab to his for-profit film production company.
On June 17, Peck removed five members of the USAGM: Bay Fang of Radio Free Asia, Jamie Fly of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Alberto M. Fernandez of Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Emilio Vasquez of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and Libby Liu of the Open Technology Fund.
They likely will be replaced by Trump-vetted loyalists. For example, Jeffrey Shapiro, a former Breitbart News writer when Steve Bannon ran Breitbart, has been involved in reshaping the USAGM and is likely to become head of Cuba Broadcasting.
Bannon largely was responsible for popularizing “Deep State” as a descriptor among conservatives for an entrenched network inside government, bureaucracy, intelligence, law enforcement and military leadership with links to think tanks, academic institutions and media that control elected politicians.
David Rohde wrote “In Deep” to determine if it really exists and if the country’s intelligence agencies and politicians protect the public trust. He begins this exploration with the Nixon Administration, the modern presidency most similar to Trump’s in terms of conflict with Congress and the courts.
For Rohde, the investigation of intelligence agencies led by Frank Church after Nixon’s resignation, and the reforms passed under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, set the standard for subsequent administrations - at least until the 9/11 attacks and the surveillance of citizens’ images, communications, travel and finances under the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The similarities between the Nixon and Trump administrations specifically include use of the “national security” justification, maintenance of executive secrecy, information withheld from Congress, refusal to spend appropriated funds, intimidation of the press, and running espionage and sabotage from the White House against political opposition.
Although Rohde argues that elements of the Deep State gradually crept back into the executive branch during the past 40 years, he predicts that a fully formed Deep State may result from the efforts of President Trump, U.S. Attorney General Barr, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others in the current administration who are aggressively purging the federal bureaucracy.
Rohde, an executive editor of The New Yorker website, has received two Pulitzer Prizes for international reporting, and has reported for Reuters, the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor.
In addition to “In Deep,” Rohde has written “Beyond War: Reimagining America’s Role and Ambitions in a New Middle East” as well as “Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe’s Worst Massacre Since World War Two.”
Readers who don’t daily read the New York Times or watch MSNBC religiously should read “In Deep” to wrap their heads around the dizzying change that has occurred in three and a half disorderly years.
On another note … The Cannon Beach Library asks patrons who still have books checked out to return them to the book return next to the library’s front door. There will be no overdue fines.