Today it came to light that during the campaign the FBI applied for a warrant to investigate the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian hackers and that they were careful not to leak news of the investigation lest it influence the election. Also today FBI director James Comey told a senate committee that the FBI doesn’t discuss ongoing investigations. Committee Chairman Angus King of Maine noted the remark as irony; sarcasm would have been more like it, since the way the FBI trumpeted its non-news about investigating Hilary Clinton while voting was going on has been the central story of the election. It was not funny.
The FBI has not been a neutral investigative agency, despite its boasts of impartiality. Under Hoover, it was essentially the secret police force, doing dirty work for the President and members of the Congress if Hoover approved of them, manipulating and spying on them if Hoover didn’t. There was supposed to be a period of professionalizing, but who watches the watchers? Now (we know) they’re at it again. (Who knows what they’ve been getting away with in the past? This couldn’t have been the first time they’ve been up to monkey business. Rudy Giuliani’s smirking boast about information he got from retired agents—which turned out to be the October surprise announcement—indicates this wasn’t the inspiration of a wunderkind who didn’t know you could break the rules and get away with it.)
Well, they got their wish and now they’re reminding themselves to be careful what you wish for. The confirmation hearings are going badly. Rex Tillerson is being viewed unfavorably. (Some people think he may be working more for Exxon than for America.) Jeff Sessions’s racist roots are showing—again. And almost every nominee has put distance between himself and Trump: promising never to torture, resisting the Muslim ban. A general sense of chaos pervades the committee rooms.
Trump made a fool of himself at his press conference, pointing and glaring at reporters, contradicting himself, siding with Putting, making promises he can’t keep (we’ll repeal and replace Obamacare … almost simultaneously) and lying about not having been briefed on the salacious allegations made against him and blaming the intelligence agencies for leaking (though the reason they told him about it was that the report had been circulating since the summer).
He pleased his base, certainly, but he’s the “President” now or soon will be. He’s not running for anything. His job is to bring in the majority of Americans who voted against him. Instead he’s alienating them. His approval rating is 35%, tremendously low for someone who has just “won” an election and should be enjoying a honeymoon.
There was no reliable system for choosing the next emperor in the Roman Empire. Every emperor’s death was cause for civil war. Usually, his most loyal troops did the picking. The Praetorian Guard had the muscle and the proximity—usually they were at the old Emperor’s side. But they were not a thoughtful bunch of fellows. They chose with their hearts with an eye toward their own interests. A quick look at the history of Rome tells us they did not do a very good job. Why would they?
Now, the FBI—by hiding its investigations of his (nearly treasonous) Russian connections and turning its investigative gaze on Hillary—has picked Trump and he’s a living, snarling example of why the Praetorian Guard should not be entrusted to pick the next emperor. They make the wrong choice.
Now we have to live with it.