Picking up a trope conceived months back, the melodrama of US governance is looking more and more like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, with the FBI as the doomed ship Pequod, with R. Mueller as Captain Ahab and D.J. Trump as the white whale. In the classic book, of course, the wounded whale finally sends the ship to the bottom, crew and all (but one), and swims away to the freedom of the deep blue sea.
Forgive the barrage of movie metaphor, but there’s quite a bit of the 1944 classic Gaslight in here too - and sure, I’m not the first to notice. In that film, the wicked Charles Boyer manipulates his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, into thinking she’s lost her marbles, in order to cover up his own crimes. That’s how I feel when I turn to The New York Times every morning — for instance, today’s edition, with the front-page story Trump Proxies Drop by Briefings on Use of F.B.I. Informant (which headline was actually changed on the landing page to Trump’s Lawyer and Chief of Staff Appear at Briefings on F.B.I.’s Russia Informant).
This mendacious exercise in manufacturing paranoia seeks to divert the public’s attention from the actual matter at hand, which is whether the highest higher-ups in the FBI will hand over documents to congressional committees who demanded them, as they are entitled to do by the constitution. Trump’s lawyers and General Kelly “dropped by” to remind the FBI officials that the president, as chief officer of the executive branch, has instructed the FBI mandarins to comply. In other words, the Newspaper of Record endeavors to distort the record of events. That’s disgraceful enough, but they are also abetting what appears more and more to be a case of mutiny with overtones of sedition.
After many months, the gaslight is losing its mojo and a clearer picture has emerged of just what happened during and after the 2016 election: the FBI, CIA, and the Obama White House colluded and meddled to tilt the outcome and, having failed spectacularly, then labored frantically to cover up their misdeeds with further misdeeds. The real election year crimes for which there is actual evidence point to American officials not Russian gremlins. Having attempted to incriminate Trump at all costs, these tragic figures now scramble to keep their asses out of jail.
I say “tragic” because they — McCabe, Comey, Rosenstein, Strzok, Page, Ohr, et al — probably think they were acting heroically and patriotically to save the country from a monster, and I predict that is exactly how they will throw themselves to the mercy of the jury when they are called to answer for these activities in a court of law.
Of course, they have stained the institutional honor of the FBI and its parent Department of Justice, but it is probably a healthier thing for the US public to maintain an extremely skeptical attitude about what has evolved into a malevolent secret police operation.
The more pressing question is how all this huggermugger gets adjudicated in a timely manner. Congress has the right to impeach agency executives like Rod Rosenstein and remove them from office. That would take a lot of time and ceremony. They can also charge them with contempt-of-congress and jail them until they comply with committee requests for documents. Mr. Trump is entitled to fire the whole lot of the ones who remain. But, finally, all this has to be sorted out in federal court, with referrals made to the very Department of Justice that has been a main actor in this tale.
The most mysterious figure in the cast is the MIA Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who has become the amazing invisible man. It’s hard to see how his recusal in the Russia matter prevents him from acting in any way whatsoever to clean the DOJ house and restore something like operational norms - e.g. complying with congressional oversight - especially as the Russia matter itself resolves as a completely fabricated dodge. The story is moving very fast now. The Pequod is whirling around in the maelstrom, awaiting the final blow from the white whale’s mighty flukes.