Perhaps most disturbing revelation of the Mueller Report is that unelected government officials in the Department of Justice, the CIA and the FBI really did attempt to perpetrate a kind of “silent coup” — that is, overthrow a democratically elected president they personally despised by the use of illegal means.
This should be of particular concern to all Catholics who care about the social teaching of the Church.
As James Chappel documents in his 2018 book, Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church, published by Harvard University Press, it was the experience of living under undemocratic fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century that forced the Church to rethink its historic ambivalence towards democratic elections.
The rise of Christian Democratic parties in Europe in the 1940s and ‘50s – and their experience with the totalitarian, anti-Christian bureaucracies in the Communist east – cemented the church’s support for free elections and democratic oversight of state institutions, Chappel says.
Well, it now appears that U.S. Catholics have to relearn these lessons.
It turns out that the entire justification for the Russia probe – whether Donald Trump and his campaign “colluded” with Russian officials to somehow “steal” the election from Hillary Clinton — came from a bogus opposition research report, the so-called Steele Dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign itself.
Despite their knowledge that the report came from the Clinton campaign and that it contained unverified claims, officials at the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Justice – including FBI Director James Comey, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Special Agent Peter Strzok and DOJ officials Bruce Ohr and Lisa Page – used this report to illegally obtain secret surveillance warrants against Trump associates.
They then leaked the reality of these surveillance warrants to a compliant corporate news media in an orchestrated “Big Lie” propaganda campaign. This campaign was designed to undermine Trump’s election victory and, it was hoped, force him to resign or be impeached.
DOJ official Bruce Orh’s wife, Nellie, who worked at the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, worked on the phony report that was the excuse for the FBI’s original investigation.1
No one knows for sure, but this report appears to be the “insurance policy” that FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress DOJ lawyer Lisa Page discussed in their private text messages, bemoaning the possibility that Donald Trump might actually be elected president.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy [McCabe]’s office—that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Agent Strzok texted his mistress. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”2
As a number of YouTube video compilations now illustrate so forcefully, for more than two years the controlled news media endlessly repeated, like scripted Non-Player Characters in video games, the talking points of the Democratic Party about Russia.
In one particularly hilarious viral video shown on The Young Turks,3 MSNBC host Rachel Maddow repeats the words “Russians,” “Moscow” and “Putin” literally hundreds of times in a single episode of her TV show.
Over and over again, the corporate media issued new “bombshell” reports that purportedly revealed new “breakthroughs” in the Russia investigation that plainly spelled the end of the Trump presidency.
Virtually every major news organization repeated the same call that Trump be impeached for colluding with the Russians:
“Democrats are suggesting Trump committed an impeachable offense and could be sent to prison when his term in the White House is over,” CNN declared in December.4
Both The New York Times and the Amazon-owned Washington Post agreed.
A “breaking” story in The New York Times, released in January, carried the conclusive headline: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.”5
As if to highlight the ideological groupthink of the news media, The Washington Post and The New York Times even won Pulitzer Prizes for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”6
And now it turns out it was all a lie, a massive hoax perpetrated by government bureaucrats and the media to undermine Trump’s election.
After spending $25 million7, issuing 2,8508 subpoenas and conducting 500 search warrants, and interviewing 500 witnesses over two years, the 40 FBI agents and lawyers in the Mueller investigation concluded that there was “no evidence that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, worked with the Russians… despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”9
And the top officials in the FBI and the Department of Justice, including FBI Director James Comey, knew it all along.10
This is a terrifying development.
It gives credence to the notion that there really is something like a Deep State operating in the United States – a permanent government class that is indifferent to the wishes of the people expressed in democratic elections and pursues its own policy preferences by any means necessary, including the misuse of America’s virtually limitless surveillance technologies.
The fact is, Trump’s policies on illegal immigration and free trade are a direct threat to America’s biggest companies and the two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, that these parties apparently control.
Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” of careerist bureaucrats who line their own pockets at the public’s expense– such as Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strange ability to acquire a net worth of $300 million despite a lifetime of low-paid public service jobs — poses an existential threat to the current system.
It looks increasingly like the beneficiaries of this system were willing to do anything, including using the CIA and NSA spying apparatus, to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
And this is where Catholic social teaching comes in.
Long before we debate health care and immigration reform and a just wage, U.S. Catholics at least must fight for democracy itself – the notion that voters get to decide elections, not an unelected oligarchy of intelligence operatives and police.
St. John Paul the Great, who personally lived through the nightmare of both fascism and communism – under which unelected bureaucrats wielded enormous power over ordinary citizens and who routinely violated civil rights through constant surveillance and spying — stressed this repeatedly in his encyclicals.
While not going to far as to declare democracy the only form of legitimate government – the Church has long insisted that good government can exist in many different forms, such as constitutional monarchies and republics – the pope did emphasize the advantages that democratic elections provide to society.
“The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate,” the pope wrote in his landmark social encyclical, Centissimus Annus. “Thus she cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends (46).”
Indeed, the pope even insisted that these “narrow ruling groups that usurp the power of the State… for ideological ends” can be a threat to democratic government itself.
“As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism,” he concluded.
Finally, Catholic Social Teaching also discusses the danger a controlled news media engaged in political propaganda poses to democratic government.
“Special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups,” The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church declares. “This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments (414).”
This is a dangerous time for democracy in the United States.
The members of the so-called “Resistance” – those who believe that elections don’t matter and that they can misuse government institutions and the media to deliberately spread misinformation and political propaganda – are now found at the highest levels of U.S. society.
American Catholics of all political persuasions – left, right and center – can thus do a great service to their country by standing up for the rule of law and the basic principles of democratic government.
A Deep State with contempt for the will of voters has no place in an authentic democracy. It is time to root it out.