Over the last several years, the term “Deep State” has been used frequently by both President Trump, during speeches and on social media, as well as by some Trump-supporting pundits. President Trump and the commentators who support him often use the term to describe a group of bureaucratic insiders who want the president out of office.
These individuals represent a loosely-connected web of unelected bureaucrats, often left over from previous administrations, allegedly who utilize their intel and reach in order to disrupt the agenda of the president and his allies.
But what exactly is the Deep State? Who exactly are the Deep State players? What damage can they do? And what can be done to stop them?
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to speak with Bryan Dean Wright, a former CIA officer who now serves as a contract instructor for the military. Wright, a self-described “lifelong Democrat,” was not only able to answer my questions about the Deep State, but provide incredible insight into this not-so-well-understood world of leakers and bad actors.
In part one of this interview, which you can read here, Wright discussed his own background in the CIA, the origins of what we would today call the “Deep State,” the bad actors operating from the inside, the damage they have done, and more.
In part two below, Wright talks about what the Deep State might look like if a Democrat wins 2020, what can be done to rein in the Deep State, what the media can do, as well as the way President Trump has brought this bureaucratic monster into the light.
DW: Do you believe that if a Democrat is elected in 2020, the Deep State actors will continue to disseminate information, but for the other side? Are there proportionate actors on both sides, or is it disproportionate leaking on one side?
WRIGHT: You are out of your mind if you think there aren’t Trump supporters within the intelligence community, and that if he loses in 2020, won’t be absolutely outraged that Trump was, in their eyes, taken down because of the media and because of the Deep State actors. And you’re equally foolish to think that they won’t use their knowledge and their influence to kneecap the next Democratic president – President Sanders, President Warren, President Biden. Of course there will be people in the conservative world who work in the intelligence community who will find ways to strike back, and that is something that I have been warning about for years. Once you start this process of politicizing the intelligence community, when does it stop? We are marching down a very dangerous road where each side is so hellbent to exact revenge, and we get these political blood feuds that are wildly difficult to stop.
So, I would not be surprised at all if there were attempts by Trump supporters within the intelligence community to strike back at a progressive or otherwise Democratic president in 2020 and beyond because if we are looking at the example of Comey, Clapper, and Brennan as of today, what consequences would they face? What consequences did James Comey face when he unquestionably leaked to The New York Times to force the appointment of special counsel? He leaked classified information. What were the consequences that James Comey has had to face? He got a professorship at William and Mary University teaching ethics, he’s gone on a nationwide book tour, and he has a movie coming out based on his life and times. I mean, are you f***ing kidding me? That’s the consequence that the intelligence community is now looking at if they leak classified information. So you tell me, are we setting up the Republic for a problem? The answer is absolutely yes.
DW: You mentioned AG Bill Barr several times, but what can be done at this point to reign in the Deep State? Not only by the government and people like the attorney general, but by everyone else who has some sort of power?
WRIGHT: Let’s start first with the CIA. Gina Haspel, who’s the CIA director, she can start change. She is in control of the culture of her senior intelligence service, her senior executives, and they are the ones who engage directly with her and the White House, the National Security Council, on a regular basis. She can make sure that these folks understand there are in fact consequences for their behavior, remind them of things like the Hatch Act, what they can and can’t do. She can also, if she has suspicions or wants to make an example of someone, pull those individuals in for re-investigations and have them polygraphed for connections to the press.
She also has that same ability with her mid-level or junior staff, to pull them in on an ongoing basis to remind them of the same things, like the Hatch Act, and that what is happening in the public sphere is wrong; that while they absolutely have an opportunity, a right, to engage in our political process, they certainly should not be emulating the behavior of James Comey. She can use her leadership and her platform to do that.
She can also work with the human resources folks when they’re bringing people on board, to talk about building a new culture within the CIA that reminds people that they are subservient to the President and ultimately subservient to the American people; that it is an honor and a privilege to work at the agency, and if they are found to be abusing the profound powers that they are given, they will be held to account.
Now, that becomes a much more difficult message to sell when James Comey gets away with it. And that’s why the work of Attorney General Barr and John Durham is so important. Gina Haspel has to have concrete examples of consequences for this Deep State treachery. There are other modest things you can do, like stripping security clearances of former professionals who leave and no longer use them on a daily basis, or a project basis – but that stuff is ultimately not as important as changing the culture for why intelligence professionals, law enforcement professionals should not be leaking, A) at all, and B) classified information, and that there will be consequences if they do.
DW: Is there anything the media can do? I mean, responsible media.
WRIGHT: One of the things that I think would be very helpful is if we understood the bias of a particular reporter or media outlet, and then grade that severity of bias with each story that’s aired or published. For instance, I’d love to hover my cursor over a reporter’s name and have a bubble pop up that rates likely bias, with links to examples of said bias. Yes, I recognize the tricky nature of what I’m suggesting – who ranks the bias? But I think there’s a market-based solution to be found.
Another way we consumers ought to flag biased or untrustworthy reporting is when a reporter or outlet uses unnamed sources. Given that Comey has now admitted to being an anonymous media source, it should tell Americans that they should be very suspicious about the motivations of these mysterious people making allegations. And, frankly, it says a lot about the lack of moral character by these sources. They should stand up and say the right thing on the record if they suspect fraud, waste, and abuse, for example. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be done. If you are within the intelligence community and you have problems with your leadership, even the president themself, there are ways that you address that, and it’s not leaking to the press.
So, I think because of our beautiful Constitution, we give our media a lot of leash to report on the facts. But without understanding the bias of the outlet and the reporter, we don’t know if we’re really getting facts, but rather spin. I believe that there’s some good work that could be done on this thorny issue, and on a self-regulating basis. I’m not sure that it’s the government’s role to do that, but nevertheless, a more honest accounting of bias, I think, would be a really critical step to restoring people’s belief and faith in the media. The goal is giving the American people a way to read or watch something and say, “Oh, that reporter is biased, and I’m going to discount this report or give it much less weight than I otherwise would have.”
DW: Which would require self-reflection by individual members of the media to assess their own biases.
DW: I know that you’re a self-professed “lifelong Democrat,” but what is your political ideology, and has the Trump presidency and the seemingly steroidal Deep State shaped your opinions in a new way that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before?
WRIGHT: Well, I think that like many Americans, I was trepidatious about President Trump, certainly in 2015 and 2016, as the noise was getting louder that he would be a viable candidate and then indeed the President of the United States. But what I have seen over the past three years is that’s he’s playing a very important, a vital role in fact, of blowing up the status quo, of blowing up a system that fundamentally wasn’t working. I’ve come to appreciate that his presidency could be used by the people to create the kind of country, the kind of Republic, that we deserve, which is one that’s accountable to people, that actually gets stuff done, that doesn’t focus on partisanship as much. At least that is, I think, the promise that I have begun to see in President Trump.
And I certainly would say that his positions are reflective of most Democrats, certainly ten years ago. On the border issues, on immigration, he’s saying the exact same things the Democrats were saying not long ago. In 2008, if you looked at the DNC’s platform, Obama was not a hell of a lot different than President Trump on this issue.
So, I think that he represents a lot of common sense on a number of issues that I’ve come to appreciate. Most especially, I think that he’s exposed this Deep State garbage that would have never, ever been exposed under a President Clinton. James Comey would likely still be the FBI director. Think about that. All these others, the McCabes and the Brennans and the Comeys, would all still be in D.C. with their hands on the levers of power.
I think that Trump’s service to this country, of exposing that Deep State, may be one of his greatest legacies.
Depending on how the China issue shakes out, I think that he could be a monumental president regarding how we take on the Chinese. Again, we’ll see.
I’ve really appreciated his approach to the War on Terror. What he has done with Soleimani in Iran, for instance. Under Bush and Obama, Soleimani and the Iranians basically had us buffaloed into a corner, and we wouldn’t take them on because we feared World War III. Well, Trump just gave that a gigantic middle finger and reminded them that they are the junior partner in this relationship, and that we would be setting the agenda. That’s precisely what needed to happen for over 16 years under two different administrations from two different political parties, and Trump finally did the right thing.
And I will tell you, from people that I know who worked the Iran issue inside the intelligence community, they were absolutely elated with Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani.
So overall, I think that the president is doing much better than many of us may have been concerned about, and he deserves a very serious consideration of our vote in 2020.
As it relates to my own personal ideology or philosophy, I would like to say I’m an old school Democrat of the Kennedy/Foley ilk, a Democrat who understands that America was and remains exceptional, and that we have a critical role to play in the world, and that it’s a role that will be respected by our partners even when they don’t like it. It’s leadership through unabashed strength. Trump has restored some of that which was lost under Bush and Obama, contrary to the media hype that would tell you otherwise. I think that’s lost on the modern American Left.
On domestic policies, I think that I believe the same things that I did ten years ago, like the importance of controlled immigration, that we have to have borders. I don’t see that as something that is part of the modern Democratic Left. Trump’s brought that out in stark relief.
But this schism within the Democratic Party isn’t because of Trump. It’s a fight that’s been had over many decades, in fits and starts. We dealt with this desire to unreasonably expand the state, for example, back in the 60s and 70s. Meanwhile, I thought we had put the socialist genie back in the bottle and marginalized those radical leftist elements around that same time. But very clearly, as the DNC declares Ocasio-Cortez the future of the Democratic Party, I think these dark forces are at play again. And we have a huge problem – we being the party, and the nation. It’s a problem that would leave people like Jack Kennedy and Tom Foley rolling over in their graves.
I don’t know where people like me go if a progressive wins the Democratic nomination or the presidency. Polling shows that moderate and conservative Democrats make up anywhere from 35% to 50% of the party. I think our vote will be up for grabs. I think many of us will gravitate to a new Republican Party.
DW: Is there something that you would want our readers to know that you and I haven’t touched on, or perhaps that you think is important that hasn’t been really talked about in the various interviews in which you’ve engaged?
WRIGHT: I don’t think that most Americans understand what the socialist movement in this country is up to. I think many people understand that socialism is bad, although a shocking number of Democrats, particularly younger voters, don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. Still, people don’t appreciate appreciate what Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are doing with the Democratic Party, and I don’t think that most people appreciate why that’s bad, not just for the Democratic Party, but for the country. And ultimately the world.
Let me explain.
Our Republic requires multiple parties to hold each other to account. We have to have multiple voices at the table to challenge each other, to question each other. Our Republic thrives or falls based on that broad contribution and debate, and right now, the Democratic Party is becoming a movement that doesn’t warrant consideration. The reason is its embrace of socialists and their wicked ideology.
The Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders movement – Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA – started many years ago, of course. But their plans really morphed and solidified in 2012, as the DSA put forward a strategy document that basically said to its members, “Look, as socialists, we know that we can’t win in this country running as the Socialist Party. We have to rebrand ourselves. That means we register as Democrats, we run as Democrats, and then push the party so far to the Left as fast as we can that the party fissures into progressives vs. moderates and conservatives. We will then break off, taking with us the bulk of the party, the base. Then and only then can we revive the Socialist Party. Because then we won’t be scary anymore. We will have normalized the socialist agenda.” It’s an agenda, of course, that has been rightfully smeared by its decades of mass death and destruction in every country that has adopted it. So, no wonder they’re trying to rebrand it.
That’s where we’re at. And that’s what Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie are doing. So, when you hear them talk about “free stuff” – education, housing, health care, jobs – know that they’re rebranding themselves with unserious policy proposals that they can’t possibly afford not because they’re being serious, but only trying to make the Socialist Party less scary.
It’s all in the 2012 DSA strategy document, all available on the DSA website for anyone to read. I wish more Americans took the time to review it, understand it, and grasp the treachery of Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. They’re using the Democratic Party as though it’s a host to be invaded and occupied by a socialist virus. The only aim is to strip the Democratic Party down to nothing, destroy it, and then leave with the voters who would serve their revived Socialist Party.
If that were to happen, think of the consequences not just for the Democratic Party or even America. What would happen to the world? What would happen to humanity if, somehow, the United States were to succumb to socialism?
Who would step into that vacuum of global leadership that for so long has defended liberty and freedom? The clear answer is China, a country that persecutes its people, that embraces murderous concentration camps for the Uighur people. That is the government that would be controlling humanity’s future.
That is what’s at stake. That’s what happens to liberty, to freedom, if the United States, imperfect as we are, is no longer on the scene because we embrace socialism.
And for those who argue that Russia might step up, count me skeptical. With an economy the size of Italy and a leadership that enjoys oppression as much as the Chinese, these are not the people we want to lead humanity.
So, if the Democratic Party falls to the socialist wing with all their horrific values, and the United States is handicapped and is no longer able to play the role that it does in the world, imperfect as we may be, we will jeopardize all the progress that we have fought so hard for, certainly since World War II, to create a more just and a more peaceful world.
That’s really what is at stake for me as I watch the Democratic Party fall into the socialist trap, as I watch Chuck and Nancy and the DNC embrace Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders as the future of the Democratic Party. I watch in horror as progressives in the media fawn over Ocasio-Cortez. People like Rachel Maddow and Joy Behar package her as some fun, dance-on-the-roof kind of girl that’s just a lovely representation of womanhood or being black or brown.
If that bologna salesmanship convinces enough Americans that socialism isn’t so bad after all, and we start going down that path, then we will lose everything that we have fought for over the past 100 years. So we have to get this right. We have to self-correct – as a Democratic Party, as a country – because so much is at stake.