The Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, is the farthest thing from a benign organization one could imagine, but it may play a key role in taking out Donald Trump. Since its inception soon after the end of World War II, the CIA has engaged in all manner of nefarious activities, especially interfering in the domestic politics of other nations, usually to help the forces of reaction stop popular and progressive governments from governing, and helping install reactionaries in their places, in the name of helping the United States win the cold war against its supposed mortal enemy, the Soviet Union.
With the Soviet Union now gone, the CIA has taken up the so called war on terror with gusto. It is an inherently conservative institution since it serves almost exclusively the need of good “conservatives,” especially in the United States, to have an enemy always at hand to keep the population on pins and needles and always willing to support stupid policies like invading other countries for no apparent reason or building walls on our national borders to keep excessively brown people out.
The CIA is not your friend. But politics, as the old saying goes, makes strange bedfellows.
Right now, the choices are to get in bed with the CIA or with Donald Trump.
I’ll hold my nose and take the CIA.
Another old saying is, “better the evil you know than the one you don’t.”
We’ve had nearly two years now to grow accustomed to Trump as president, yet he still manages to surprise us. He is the evil that is endlessly morphing into ever greater evil. There is no bottom with Trump. He is not a person any sane individual could possibly reason with. He is entirely focused on what he perceives to be his own immediate benefit. This will likely prove to be his undoing.
That undoing may be at hand. We have long had good reason to suspect that Donald Trump has repeatedly and willfully violated the foreign emoluments clause, which reads, “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9) This is essentially a rule prohibiting any public official in the United States from accepting any bribes from any foreign officials.
We also have good reason to doubt Trump’s claims to have no financial interest in Saudi Arabia. He conveniently failed to include Saudi Arabia in his ban on entry by persons coming from Muslim majority countries. The Muslim majority countries that escaped the ban have in common that they are countries where Trump has business interests. This should surprise no one.
Over a week has elapsed since someone, presumably at the CIA, leaked highly specific intelligence about multiple phone calls persons who are widely suspected of having assassinated journalist Jamal Kashoggi in what was apparently a particularly gruesome fashion made to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the national leader at whose direction the assassination took place. Even without knowing the details of the conversations, it is obvious that they were discussing the assassination, perhaps as it was happening.
One of Trump’s first official acts as president, in January 2017, was to give a speech at CIA headquarters that many people considered hugely offensive to the people who work at the agency. Since then, he has repeatedly given voice to the most ridiculous of right wing conspiracy theories about the “deep state,” a nebulous term that could refer to any number of agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, but also personnel working in the State Department, or pretty much anywhere. Again, he has consistently exhibited untoward loyalty to the ruling regime of Saudi Arabia.
With his public statements about the killing of Mr. Kashoggi, which all thinking people see as a major outrage, and about what Mohammed bin Salman knew about it, Trump effectively took the side of the Saudi prince against the CIA, which had credible intelligence indicating that the prince had ordered Kashoggi’s death.
The leak of information about the phone calls between the assassination team and bin Salman were a shot across Trump’s bow, indicating that the CIA knows a lot more than Trump does.
One could easily disagree with the assessment of the CIA about what is the national interest of the United States. One could definitely disagree about the extent to which the U.S. national interest justifies — if it can at all — interfering in the domestic politics of other countries. Even persons who participated directly in such nefarious undertakings would likely be able and willing to have a reasonably intelligent, rational discussion about these weighty questions. Congress, under Democratic control, has brought the CIA and the FBI to heel because of their illegal activity, at least with respect to U.S. citizens.
Trump is incapable of having an intelligent, rational discussion about any topic. He is entirely off the chain. Republicans in Congress show no signs of stopping him.
The CIA is not good, but Trump is far worse.