It’s no secret that since his election in 2016, powerful elements in the US political and media establishment have been running a non-stop campaign to remove Trump from the White House. Lately, the stakes have been raised.
Spearheading the media effort to defenestrate Trump are the New York Times and Washington Post. Both have been prominent purveyors of the “Russiagate” narrative over the past two years, claiming that Republican candidate colluded with Russian state intelligence, or at least was a beneficiary of alleged Russian interference, to win the presidency against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Congressional investigations and a probe by a Special Counsel Robert Mueller, along with relentless media innuendo, have failed to produce any evidence to support the Russiagate narrative.
Now, the anti-Trump media in alliance with the Democratic leadership, the foreign policy establishment and senior ranks of the state intelligence agencies appear to have come up with a new angle on President Trump – he is a national security risk.
Ingeniously, the latest media effort lessens the burden of proof required against Trump. No longer has it to be proven that he deliberately collaborated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump could have done it “unwittingly,” the media are now claiming, because he is a buffoon and reckless. But the upshot, for them, is he’s still a national security risk. The only conclusion, therefore, is that he should be removed from office. In short, a coup.
Over the past couple of weeks, the supposed media bastions have been full of it against Trump. An op-ed in the New York Times on January 5 by David Leonhardt could not have made more plain the absolute disdain. “He is demonstrably unfit for office. What are we waiting for?”
Follow-up editorials and reports have piled on the pressure. The Times reported how the Federal Bureau of Investigation – the state’s internal security agency – opened a counterintelligence file on Trump back in 2017 out of concern that he was “working for Russia against US interests.”
That unprecedented move was prompted partly because of Trump’s comments during the election campaign in 2016 when he jokingly called on Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s incriminating emails. Never mind the fact that Russian hackers were not the culprits for Clinton’s email breach.
Then the Washington Post reported former US officials were concerned about what they said was Trump’s “extraordinary lengths” to keep secret his private conversations with Russia’s Putin when the pair met on the sidelines of conferences or during their one-on-one summit in Helsinki last July.
The Post claimed that Trump confiscated the notes of his interpreter after one meeting with Putin, allegedly admonishing the aide to not tell other officials in the administration about the notes being sequestered. The inference is Trump was allegedly in cahoots with the Kremlin.
This week, in response to the media speculation, Trump was obliged to strenuously deny such claims, saying: “I have never worked for Russia… it’s a big fat hoax.”
What’s going on here is a staggering abuse of power by the US’ top internal state intelligence agency to fatally undermine a sitting president based on the flimsiest of pretexts. Moreover, the nation’s most prominent news media outlets – supposedly the Fourth Estate defenders of democracy – are complacently giving their assent, indeed encouragement, to this abuse of power.
The Times in the above report admitted, in a buried one-line disclaimer, that there was no evidence linking Trump to Russia.
Nevertheless, the media campaign doubled down to paint Trump as a national security risk.
The Times reported on January 14 about deep “concerns” among Pentagon officials over Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the US from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The reporting portrays Trump as incompetent, ignorant of policy details and habitually rude to American allies. His capricious temper tantrums could result in the US walking away from NATO at any time, the newspaper contends.
Such a move would collapse the transatlantic partnership between the US and Europe which has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years,” claimed the Times.
The paper quotes US Admiral James Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, calling Trump’s withdrawal whims “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.”
“Even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin,” added Stavridis.
The Times goes on to divulge the media campaign coordination when it editorialized: “Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr Putin secret from even his own aides, and an FBI investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.”
Still another Times report this week reinforced the theme of Trump being a national security risk when it claimed that the president’s Middle East policy of pulling troops out of Syria was “losing leverage” in the region. It again quoted Pentagon officials “voicing deepening fears” that Trump and his hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton “could precipitate a conflict with Iran”.
That’s a bit hard to stomach: the Pentagon being presented as a voice of sanity and peace, keeping vigilance over a wrecking-ball president and his administration.
But the New York Times, Washington Post and other anti-Trump corporate media have long been extolling the military generals who were formerly in the administration as “the adults in the room.”
Generals H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser, John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, and James Mattis, the former defense secretary until he was elbowed out last month by the president, were continually valorized in the US media as being a constraining force on Trump’s infantile and impetuous behavior.
The absence of “the adults” seems to have prompted the US media to intensify their efforts to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.
A new House of Representatives controlled by the Democratic Party has also invigorated calls for impeachment of Trump over a range of unsubstantiated accusations, Russian collusion being prime among them. But any impeachment process promises to be long and uncertain of success, according to several US legal and political authorities.
Such a tactic is fraught with risk of failing, no doubt due to the lack of evidence against Trump’s alleged wrongdoing. A failed impeachment effort could backfire politically, increase his popularity, and return him to the White House in 2020.
Given the uncertainty of impeaching Trump, his political enemies, including large sections of the media establishment, seem to be opting for the tactic of characterizing him as a danger to national security, primarily regarding Russia. Trump doesn’t have to be a proven agent of the Kremlin – a preposterous idea. Repeated portrayal of him as an incompetent unwitting president is calculated to be sufficient grounds for his ouster.
When the Washington Post editorial board urges a state of emergency to be invoked because of “Russian meddling in US elections”, then the national mood is being fomented to accept a coup against Trump. The media’s fawning over the Pentagon and state intelligence agencies as some kind of virtuous bastion of democracy is a sinister signal for a military-police state.
By Finian Cunningham