It’s become even clearer with the information made public as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s charges and plea deals that President Trump’s campaign was infected in pre-planned fashion by those trying to entrap him and his team. Goals: ensure his election loss or cripple his presidency.
The first failed, the second is ongoing.
Between a series of set-up meetings with “Russian officials” and Trump election people, including very low-level foreign policy volunteer George Papadopoulos, who just copped a plea with Mueller to presumably provide some dirt on someone, the apparent attempts to plant little scandal timebombs were everywhere. In fact, even the recommendation of Paul Manafort to be campaign chairman, apparently from the Republican establishment in D.C., turned out to be part of the poison with Manafort’s known Russian connections. (Known to the swamp — apparently not to Trump.)
This was the swamp creature reaching out to attack a potential threat. The very thing that Trump was promising to drain to the roaring cheers of thousands of Americans who know instinctively that Washington is only out for itself, was at that very moment oozing its way into his campaign with poison.
Trump was naive. His team inexperienced. But he was an outsider. Very outside. And the swamp had set the rules for a long time. Play by them and you gain. You may lose your soul, but you gain power and money and prestige. Trump doesn’t even know the rules, let alone play by them. Sure, he’s arrogant, abrasive, self-centered and politically shoots himself in the foot too much, but he actually seems to love his country — and he’s not of the swamp. He could be the man for the hour.
The revelations through Mueller’s first prosecutorial moves reveal a lot about how things operate and were operating. First, Mueller’s case looks weak. Paul Manafort is the big fish, but none of the charges have to do with Trump, the Trump campaign or collusion. So essentially, they are not part of what Mueller was even charged with investigating. They’re mostly money-laundering and related criminal activities — most all of which were happening while Mueller was head of the FBI.
Then there’s Papadopoulos, who was a twenty-something volunteer who said he was trying to ingratiate himself and curry favor by showing his chops setting up a meeting with Russians. He was a kid easily being played as a pawn by the Russians — or someone. But he was immediately rebuffed by Trump’s team. He tried again, and was rejected outright again. So all Mueller has on him is lying about his timeline when questioned by the FBI. A basic process charge against a scared kid. Again, there’s nothing there but the chance to get him to flip.
But a weak case doesn’t mean a short-lived investigation. Mueller won’t stop. He and his 16 Democrat lawyers will keep strong-arming witnesses, digging for dirt far beyond his mandate to look into Russian interference in the election. This will go on and on, and the reason is obvious. Keep Trump crippled. The second goal of the entrappers. With a swamp that includes many members of his own party, it’s not really that hard.
So, what to do? There are two broad, strategic strokes the President could pursue that would effectively start draining Washington. They’re bold, but necessary — probably the only way to actually accomplish what Trump promised.
Aggressively prosecute corruption: IRS, obstruction of justice, Uranium One, leaks
Is there any reason we shouldn’t hold Washington to high ethical standards? Why assume and allow all the dirtiness? Just the past eight years has enough corruption to keep hundreds of investigators buried in work. And these are just the ones we know about during the time the watchdog media was being a purring kitten.
Let’s start with the most recent high-profile candidates for prosecution.
→ Uranium One. The Obama Administration, under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, approved the purchase of Uranium One by a Russian company with tight ties to the Kremlin even while the same Russian interests were actively under investigation by the FBI. It was a staggering breach of national security and swampy corruption. In return — and it seems pretty obvious this was a quid pro quo — Bill Clinton was paid a cool $500,000 for one speech by a Kremlin-tied Russian bank just a few months later. This was all part of an ongoing influence-peddling scheme by Russians in the swamp, and the easiest targets when dragging a dollar and requiring influence are the Clintons.
Congressional Republicans were trying to stop the uranium transfer — the media was still purring through all of this — so Eric Holder’s Justice Department actively concealed what it knew from Congress. Team Obama stonewalled Congress for four years and reportedly threatened a whistleblower who wanted to go public. This is truly a massive scandal and considering the entire “Russian reset” from Clinton and Obama, and the ongoing strengthening of the Russian position worldwide during Obama’s term, it screams for a criminal investigation.
→ Email crimes and obstructions. The controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server is well documented. It was a blatant security breach and a violation of State Department policy. Worse, when those emails were subpoenaed by Congress, she gave Congress a tiny portion of hand-picked emails and then destroyed the rest — 33,000 emails. That was illegal, and in contempt of Congress.
This is all normal Clintonian behavior. The real swampiness comes in when there were absolutely no repercussions for her actions. Why? Because it would tank her presidential bid and implicate everyone up to and including President Obama — who it turns out was communicating with Clinton on the unsecured, private server using a synonym. As National Review points out: “If Obama himself had been e-mailing over a non-government, non-secure system, then everyone else who had been doing it had a get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Rules, laws, justice, Congress were all flaunted, and yet everyone skated. This all looks totally prosecute-able, but only with the will to do it. And Trump has not shown that. So far.
→ Weaponizing the IRS. The Obama administration went far beyond what Nixon ever did in actually targeting political opponents during President Obama’s run for a second term. An unknown number of Tea Party and other conservative political organizations — more than 400 — seeking tax-exempt status were blocked from forming and therefore raising money to oppose Obama.
Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS unit that violated Americans’ rights to equal protection under the law, was put on paid administrative leave indefinitely. After four years, the Obama FBI said there was no evidence to warrant criminal investigation. Naturally.
The Trump administration has agreed to a “very substantial” payout to these groups to settle a class-action lawsuit that was launched because the Obama DoJ wouldn’t do anything. But all this does is transfer some taxpayer money to these groups. Nothing happened to the actual wrongdoers. Lesson learned, and not the one Americans want.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has already said it is not going to investigate the IRS on criminal activity. Perhaps even they are afraid of the IRS, but this is a lynchpin now in protecting the swamp if IRS leaders can get away with what Lerner did, with nothing more than a very long, paid vacation. Expect more.
There are many more controversies that should be investigated, such as the illegal sale of arms by the federal government to Mexican drug and sex traffickers for reasons that have never been adequately explained. Those guns have been used to murder American law enforcement officers along the borders. No repercussions.
Then there is the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in literal cash, on a plane, to Iran — a known exporter of terrorism by our own definition. A good faith gesture? To terrorists? That’s not just bad “optics.” That should be criminally investigated. But it probably won’t be.
This needs to be as non-partisan as possible. We know there are dirty Republicans. They just have not had executive power recently. Go after them. And lobbyists, lawyers, Deep State leakers, anyone else who is breaking the law. Why were we looking the other way during those years Manafort was working with both Democrats and Republicans in shady activities. Because of the swamp. Everyone knew. And there are hundreds of Manaforts in D.C.
Investigate and prosecute to uphold the law and ethics and start the draining.
Slash the size of the federal government. Deeply.
The primary feeder of the swamp is the monstrous size of the federal government. Congress is currently fashioning a $3.76 trillion — trillion — budget. That’s just to run the federal government for 12 months.
Within that slushy grab-bag of spending — including another $300 billion in debt — there is room for a lot of people to skim and direct money to their pet projects, for re-election projects, for friends and benefactors and for themselves.
But the eye-boggling spending is really only part of the feeding mechanism. The regulatory state is a crushing colossus on Americans, American businesses and state and local governments. Consider just the number of major departments and what they regulate in everyday life (excluding the Department of Defense, which runs our military and does not regulate Americans.)
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Justice
- Department of Labor
- Department of State
- Department of Transportation
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Veterans Affairs
There are, of course, hundreds of smaller elements of the federal government fitted with their own armies of overseers. Additionally, here are some of the agencies that directly impact Americans’ lives.
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Communications Commission
- Federal Elections Commission
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- Federal Reserve Board
- Federal Trade Commission
- General Services Administration
- International Trade Commission
- National Labor Relations Board
- National Transportation Safety Board
- National Science Foundation
- Securities and Exchange Commission
- Selective Service Commission
- Small Business Administration
- United States Postal Service
And, not to be forgotten, the Internal Revenue Service. Here is a daunting and depressing list of all of the federal government departments and agencies.
All told, about 2.1 million federal government civilian employees oversee the regulatory behemoth of the federal government. This number excludes about 760,000 military members. So more than 2 million bureaucrats of some sort spend their full-time days controlling Americans’ daily activities.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the power of the swamp in this regulatory morass. The most powerful corporations in the country, from Google to Microsoft to Exxon to General Motors humbly go hat-in-hand to meet with regulators who can create havoc in their industries and their companies, or can provide protection against competitors. There are plenty of honest bureaucrats trying to do a good job in the swamp, but the inherent features of the place ensure there will be ample players who are out to maximize their own desires. And that requires protecting the means to those desires.
Looking at the list of departments and agencies, wholesale elimination of departments such as Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development would in all likelihood have a net benefit to Americans in freeing them up and pushing any actually necessary regulatory control to the more local levels — where it should be. Shouldn’t your local, fairly responsive School Board be in charge of education over distant bureaucratic, unaccountable overseers?
That would eliminate tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of billions of dollars and make Americans freer in the process. And it would weaken the power of the swamp creature. Weakening that feeder system makes it less attractive and could potentially start a downward spiral in swampiness.
Whether Trump would ever undertake such a degree of draining is not clear. So far, he’s been great on deregulation and adequate on government growth. But this requires a far more revolutionary degree of action.
So is the swamp really drainable?
Yes. But the scope of the challenge is clear.
Trump is as constitutionally capable as anyone in that he is not part of the swamp, refuses to change who he is and play by its rules and is almost fearless on the attack. That is the right temperament.
And he clearly has the mandate. “Drain the swamp!” was a rallying cry that became louder than “Build the wall!” and “Lock her up!” Because drainage would more easily lead to the other issues being accomplished.
But it’s not at all clear that Trump has a real vision for it. He recognizes the problem. But he would need to be laser-focused with a long-term strategy, and his opponents are learning how to distract him. Plus, is Congress really in any way capable of slashing the federal government? Is Jeff Sessions really going to lead the charge on aggressive prosecutions?
Long shots, to be generous. But that is the pathway to draining the swamp. And the only one. Anything else is just campaign rhetoric.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.