Buried in our country’s history books are the names of thousands of people that may not mean much to the average citizen, but during their careers, they were responsible for protecting America in so many ways. FBI special agent and Associate Director Mark Felt, who turned out to be Bob Woodward’s “Deep Throat,” provided the inside information that led to uncovering the Watergate scandal. Other unsung FBI heroes such as Melvin Purvis, Joe Pistone and Charles Winstead were in the vanguard of FBI agents whose exploits are no longer in the spotlight.
Over the past few weeks, President Trump has chosen to attack the FBI, the Department of Justice and any and all of their allied agencies. These attacks have been so over-the-top that anyone who has any degree of loyalty to America has to be concerned. The FBI has been in existence since 1908. It has roughly 40,000 employees scattered all over the country. Its tasks are often compared to M15, Great Britain’s most revered investigative agency.
The FBI has generated its share of controversy, especially when J. Edgar Hoover was its leader. But whether you like the bureau or not, it is on the front lines when it comes to keeping this country safe, and if it were abolished, the U.S. would be a lot less so. There’s no doubt that employees of the FBI have opinions about politics, but as American citizens, we all have that right. To claim that they are “biased” and to call them the “enemy,” as Trump has done, is frightening and despicable.
The investigations into the activities of the Russian government and its operatives have consistently verified that Russia was actively involved in trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Those underhanded tactics are continuing. A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that 500,000 online comments made to the Federal Communications Commission about a planned vote on internet access all came from Russian sources. The deeper the probe of Russian influence goes, the more inflammatory are the insults to the intelligence community from Trump and a handful of right-wing members of Congress.
Added to those attacks are the vicious efforts to undermine the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by George W. Bush and is considered among the most respected FBI heads in modern history. He is a registered Republican who has never spoken out on any political issue. But in an effort to torpedo his work, certain members of Congress are calling for him to be arrested and taken out in handcuffs.
It isn’t fair for anyone to conclude at this point that the president is guilty of any criminal acts. The Mueller investigation will establish what Trump and his insiders knew or didn’t know and what they did or didn’t do. But the president’s almost daily attacks on the intelligence community are frightening, because if you undermine the agencies sworn to protect us, what’s left of the democratic system?
During the Clinton years, there were many strong attacks on Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. As mean-spirited as those attacks were, the current firestorm of hatred for a government prosecutor has gone beyond all the boundaries of decency. Starr’s findings led to a vote in the House of Representatives to impeach President Clinton. Whether you agree or disagree with what happened, our justice system functioned and did its job.
What is just as discomforting as the war against the intelligence communities is the meanness of some current members of the Republican Senate leadership. The poor people of this country have no lobbyists or major defenders in Washington, so they’re at the mercy of people like Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who claims that there is no money to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which protects 9 million children from serious health issues. Or Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who defended repealing the estate tax to help the rich “as opposed to those people that are just spending every darn penny that they have, whether it’s on booze, women or movies.”
I’m no bleeding-heart liberal, and I have a record of independent government service to prove it. But as we begin a new year, we are experiencing a national nightmare that threatens to turn America into a banana republic.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.