Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, in an explosive interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” said that in early 2017, in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, he and other FBI officials discussed the possibility of recruiting a cabinet secretary to help push the president out of office by using the Constitution’s 25thAmendment.
McCabe further contended that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire when he was around Trump in order to gather evidence against him. (Rosenstein McCabe, left, on “60 Minutes.” denies the allegation.) McCabe said that Justice Department officials believed at the time that Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey, and they worried that Trump was somehow under the influence of the Russian government. In the end, nothing came of the plan. Regardless of one’s feelings toward President Trump and his policies, what McCabe is describing is nothing less than a coup attempt. It’s something that happens in weak or nascent democracies, following interference by the CIA perhaps. It should never happen here.
Trump has long had an antagonistic relationship with the FBI, the CIA and other elements of the intelligence community. Indeed, in early 2017, when news of the FISA warrants and the private intelligence Steele dossier began to leak out, Trump began to tweet his disgust at news of impending investigations of him, his campaign, and his business dealings.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded almost immediately, saying “(The president) is being really dumb to do this.” “This” was to take on the intelligence agencies, the so-called Deep State, in public. A few days later, Schumer went on MSNBC to sharpen his warning to Trump, saying, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community—they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
But Trump was right. The intelligence community—the FBI, CIA, the NSA and other three-letter agencies—are too powerful, too entrenched and two well-funded. And they have far too little oversight. They’re a threat to our democracy, not the saviors of it. That is why it pains me to see Democrats lining up behind them to attack Trump.
Presidents Come and Go
I was a member of that “Deep State” throughout my 15 years at the CIA. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the CIA doesn’t care who the president is. Neither does the FBI. Senior CIA and FBI officers are there for decades, while presidents come and go. They know that they can out wait any president they don’t like. At the very least, at the CIA, they could made administrative decisions that would hamstring a president: Perhaps they don’t carry out that risky operation. Maybe they don’t target that well-placed source. Maybe they ignore the president’s orders knowing that in four years or eight years he or she will just go away.
Even worse, these same organizations—the FBI and the CIA—are the ones that have sought to undermine our democracy over the years. Don’t forget programs like COINTELPRO, the FBI’s operation to force Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the infiltration of peace groups; the CIA’s efforts to control the media with Operation Mockingbird; the CIA’s illegal spying on American citizens; the CIA hacking into the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee; and the Agency’s extrajudicial assassination program; to name a few.
McCabe’s almost offhanded comments on “60 Minutes,” that the FBI actively considered deposing a sitting president should be cause for alarm. Set partisan politics aside for a moment. We’re talking about deposing a sitting president. We’re talking about wearing a wire to catch a sitting president saying something because you’re angry that he fired your boss. Even the idea of it is unprecedented in American history.
The FBI is perfectly free to investigate collusion. That’s what they ought to be doing. But they ought not plot the overthrow of a president, no matter how quirky and offensive he may be. That’s anti-democratic and illegal and it harkens back to the bad old days of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and the CIA before the reforms of the Church Committee.
We have a way to depose presidents. They’re called “elections.” The FBI should familiarize itself with them.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.
Meanwhile, Trump is trying his best to remove Maduro from Venezuela…
… or maybe, he’s just emphasizing what the US government has been doing since post-WW2 around the globe, i.e. the Art of Changing Regimes for corporate profit.