By Alex Bregman
In some circles, the term “the deep state” has become shorthand for shadowy forces in the government that are blamed every time a negative news story is leaked about President Trump.
Some conservatives believe that, within the federal civil service, a cabal of Obama administration holdovers, liberal bureaucrats and intelligence officials is working to undermine the president.
For example, Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., said recently on the Fox Business Network, “Overall, I think that [the Trump presidency is] dealing with seditious people within the Department of Justice, within the FBI, within the Department of Interior, within the CIA. There are people that do not approve of the Trump presidency, and I think they are trying to take him down from the inside.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-W.V., told CNN, “I don’t think it’s Trump vs. Obama, I think it’s really the deep state versus the president.”
On Fox News, host Sean Hannity has been discussing the topic for weeks, most recently linking it to the release of the president’s 2005 tax returns. He said on Tuesday night, “We now have deep state actors, some who broke the law by releasing the president’s taxes, all in an effort to destroy his presidency.”
Last week, Hannity urged Trump to “to begin to purge these saboteurs before it’s too late.” The very next day, the president fired every U.S. attorney appointed by President Barack Obama, including New York prosecutor Preet Bharara, whom Trump had previously asked to stay on.
Although incoming administrations often replace sitting U.S. attorneys with their own appointments, this move raised eyebrows, because it was carried out so suddenly and unceremoniously.
Yahoo News asked the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, “Does the White House believe there’s such a thing as the ‘deep state,’ that’s actively working to undermine the president?” His reply: “Well, I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office, that there are people who stay in government who are affiliated with, joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration.”
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, however, who was appointed CIA director under President George W. Bush, disagrees. He recently told Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga that he does not consider that a “deep state” exists, at least “not yet.” He did tell Golodryga, however, “These people are not without feelings.”
Just over 4,000 positions are appointed by the president. The vast majority of those working in the government, about 2 million employees, spend their entire careers there.
The larger question is whether the “deep state” is a danger, and is subverting a legitimate president, or whether it is a diversion, distracting people from important inquiries about conflicts of interest the president may be involved in.
While not enough information is yet available to provide a definitive answer, the next time you hear a reference to the concept of the deep state, at least you can say, “Now I Get It.”