WASHINGTON — The key law enforcement figures in what President Donald Trump and his allies have characterized as a “deep state” conspiracy against him are not lefties or even Democrats: They are Republicans. And Trump picked a number of them himself.
Trump and Republicans are continuing to attack the nation’s top law enforcement organizations to undermine the special counsel investigation into his campaign, which has already resulted in criminal charges against four Trump associates. But factually speaking, it’s really tough for Trump backers to credibly argue that the deck has been stacked against the president, simply based on the political leanings of the key figures in the case.
Robert Mueller III, aka “Bobby Three Sticks,” is the special counsel tasked with investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. His probe is the true target of the classified memo Republicans wrote that Trump is moving to release this week.
Mueller is a Republican. After serving in Vietnam and earning a Bronze Star, Mueller became a federal prosecutor and landed at Justice Department headquarters during the George H.W. Bush administration. The younger Bush nominated him to become FBI director in 2001, and he was confirmed unanimously. The Senate liked him so much that they voted — once again unanimously — to extend his term. After he left the FBI in 2013, he joined the law firm WilmerHale as a partner.
Presumably, Mueller would have stayed in this lucrative position until retirement. But after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey and later said he hoped it would help end the Russia probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had little choice but to appoint a special counsel to head the investigation. Under immense pressure to choose someone members of both parties would find credible, he chose Mueller.
For some reason, Trump thinks Rosenstein — the man he nominated as his deputy attorney general — is a Democrat. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” Trump told The New York Times last year as he discussed Rosenstein.
Rosenstein is not from Baltimore; he just worked out of an office there. And he is a Republican. He even wrote the memo that the White House used as justification for firing Comey over his handling of the Clinton probe, even though Trump quickly undermined it by saying it actually fired Comey because of the Russia probe. Rosenstein has now found himself targeted by members of his own party, with his decisions reportedly questioned in the GOP-authored classified memo that Trump hopes will undermine the Russia probe.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who angered Trump because the FBI released a statement essentially calling the GOP-authored memo bogus, is another Republican. Former President George W. Bush nominated him in 2003 to be the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. After leaving government in 2005 to work as a private lawyer, Wray represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for president, during the Bridgegate scandal. Trump selected Wray to be the FBI director after he fired Comey last year.
Comey was a registered Republican, but is now resident of Virginia, which does not have party registration. He was the deputy attorney general under the younger Bush. Former President Barack Obama appointed him to head the FBI in 2013. While overseeing the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server three years later, Comey made the controversial decision to publicly slam Clinton’s handling of classified information before announcing that the Justice Department would not be pressing charges. Days before the election, Comey told lawmakers — who quickly told the world — about the FBI’s decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation to review newly discovered emails. Clinton supporters blame Comey’s handling of the email probe for costing her the election.
Jeff Sessions is most definitely a Republican. The Alabama lawyer served for 20 years in the Senate as a Republican. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions headed Trump’s foreign policy advisory committee. When Trump won, he nominated Sessions to be the attorney general, only to be very disappointed when Sessions recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe. Trump was presumably again disappointed when Sessions gave a qualified defense of his Justice Department.
Ron Hosko, a former top FBI official who believes the FBI should have been tougher on Clinton, laughed when HuffPost asked him about the notion that the FBI was a hotbed of liberalism.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hosko said. “At its core, the FBI is still a pretty conservative, right-leaning organization that tries to divorce itself of politics.”
One FBI source told HuffPost that rank-and-file FBI agents are perplexed by the attacks on the bureau coming from the party that had aligned itself so closely with law and order.
Even Andrew McCabe — who Trump railed against on Twitter for months because his wife received donations from a Clinton ally during her failed state Senate campaign — does not appear to be a liberal member of the #resistance. McCabe, the former deputy of the director of the FBI who stepped down earlier this week, did not vote in the 2016 presidential general election — but he did participate in the Republican primary.
Ryan Reilly discussed the latest “deep state” conspiracy theory developments on the HuffPost Politics podcast: