Two realities about Washington seem especially salient this morning.
The first is that the civil service, those well-compensated workers spread like jelly across Washington proper, are overwhelmingly leftist in their politics. Democrats pulled in 82 percent of contributions made by federal and congressional workers in 2016, including a hilarious 100 percent of donations from Elizabeth Warren’s supposedly independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No surprise, then, that two thirds of government employees say they pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton and 28 percent mulled resigning after Donald Trump won.
The undiluted liberalism of the federal workforce has a precedent of vexing Republican presidents. “They did everything they could to sabotage and interfere with the policy directives and priorities of the administration while protected by onerous civil service rules,” Hans von Spakovsky, who served in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, told the Daily Signal.
Our second reality is that nothing in Washington ever ends up in the newspapers by accident. Gone are our halcyon days when journalists took unwitting government sources out to dinner and bought them four too many drinks, hoping they’d end up babbling the secretary of state’s latest extramarital affair. D.C. today can roll up like an armadillo, with platoons of trained press staffers making sure no tidbit is aired before it’s ready.
The White House is currently the exception to this rule. Donald Trump’s executive, to borrow one of Mark Wahlberg’s many legendary lines from “The Departed,” “has more leaks than the Iraqi navy.” The information that’s seeped out, much of it inconvenient and involving Russia, obviously isn’t coming from Trump’s inner circle and neither is it the work of a few scattered malcontents across the federal government. This isn’t coincidence; it’s deliberate, it’s coordinated, it’s resourceful, it’s a concerted effort by a contingent within the bureaucracy to destroy a president they don’t like.
Their salvos have been numerous. The most recent ones have contradicted Donald Trump’s previous assurances that his campaign staff had no contact with the Russians, with first Michael Flynn and then yesterday Jeff Sessions revealed to have huddled with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. There’s absolutely nothing improper about a presidential campaign (and then a presidential transition team) meeting with another country’s lawfully appointed representative, but these leaks aren’t meant to be read in context. They’re intended as a drip-drip-drip into Washington’s anti-Russia hysteria generator, which right now is whirring at its maximal setting. They’re also meant to portray Trump and his lieutenants as misleading and irresponsible, which—let’s face it—they have been.
That’s why it was so refreshing to see yesterday’s late-afternoon story in the New York Times. It unveiled Jared Kushner’s presence at yet another meeting with Kislyak (he’s everywhere, this guy), but the source this time was the White House itself, apparently an official albeit tardy disclosure. Good on them, and there needs to be more because this isn’t going to stop.
Parts of the civil service have concluded that Trump is a threat to national security/their idealism/their paychecks, and have set out to destroy him. They are powerful, unaccountable to the people, and well-versed in the dark arts of Washington. They are a case study in Winston Churchill’s warning that in progressive government civil servants would become “no longer servants and no longer civil.” They’re the home team and thus far they’re beating Trump the visitor by a score of about 50 to 0. They have done this before.
Trump should begin his counterattack with full disclosure, pushing out everything he knows about when his staffers met with the Russians and what they discussed (to the extent diplomatic protocols will allow). Even if they did broach the subject of Crimea with Kislyak, Trump’s critics can’t wail too loudly, given that the sanctions remain in place and Trump has said Russia must leave that peninsula immediately. Get out in front of this, Mr. President, and use the press as an ally for once, because if you don’t, the civil service will continue to drive the narrative on its own terms.
Unless, of course, you really did do something sinister, in which case nobody can help you now.