When it comes to the way the deep state regime is at war with Republicans, former Vice President Mike Pence’s No. 1 priority is showing that his main concern is to keep playing the “good cop” to the “bad cop” of former President Donald Trump.
Speaking in New Hampshire last week, Pence characteristically tried to have it both ways over this unprecedented attack on norms that the incident represented. After vaguely calling for transparency, Pence said:
I also want to remind my fellow Republicans that we can hold the Attorney General accountable for the decision that he made without attacking the rank and file law enforcement personnel at the FBI. The Republican Party is the party of law and order. Our party stands with the men and women who serve on the thin blue line at the federal, state, and local levels. These attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police. The truth of the matter is we need to get to the bottom of the matter and let the facts play out, but more than anything else, the American people need to be reassured of the integrity of our justice system.
Conservatives are justifiably venting outrage over the banana republic-style raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home by FBI agents acting on the orders of Attorney General Merrick Garland. But the soft-spoken Pence thinks the priority is to reassure the administrative state that Republicans won’t be unreasonable in their pushback against attempts to delegitimize opposition to the Biden administration.
With the help of a friendly judge who hates the former president so much he had to recuse himself from a lawsuit between Trump and Hillary Clinton, FBI agents were allowed to go on what turned out to be an open-ended search for anything that might somehow be used by the Democrats to indict Trump on still unspecified bogus charges. This comes after the FBI’s participation in a Russia-collusion hoax that was nothing short of a soft coup attempt against Trump.
Since their Russia ploy flopped, little has changed. In the last year and a half, the bureau and the rest of the Department of Justice have also been all in on President Joe Biden and Garland’s attempt to convince the country that the real threat to the homeland is “domestic terrorism” from white supremacists. In practice, it seems to be more about politics than terrorism. The government’s actions seem to indicate their belief that Trump supporters, especially those that push back against their outrageous politically-biased approach to law enforcement, as well as parents who oppose critical race theory indoctrination in schools, ought to be the principal focus of law enforcement.
That means the proper response to the Mar-a-Lago raid can’t be to sit back and wait patiently for the DOJ and the FBI to make their case, as so many did during the three years of a Russia investigation that was based on manipulation, lies, and misconduct from within the federal bureaucracy. As a stream of DOJ inspector general reports has shown, misconduct and even malfeasance (as was the case with the Russia hoax) are not rare.
But the Mar-a-Lago raid takes the critique of the FBI to a different level. It is unprecedented not merely for the way it targets a former president and likely political opponent of the current administration. At best it’s the criminalization of a dubious dispute about records. At worst, it’s a fishing expedition whose only purpose may be to search for nonexistent proof of unspecified crimes relating to the Democrats’ desire to criminalize skepticism about the 2020 election results and to falsely brand all Republicans as insurrectionists. That is what makes it the straw that broke the camel’s back with respect to the FBI’s credibility.
Pence claims it is possible to hold Garland accountable for his politicization of justice without a more broad-based critique of the work of the FBI. The latter, he said, would be a betrayal of the GOP’s belief in law and order and comparable to the left’s calls for defunding the police. The two issues are completely different since “reimagining” the FBI won’t cause a crime wave but would, instead, allow the agency to return to fighting crime rather than Biden’s enemies.
As the Russia hoax illustrated, in recent decades, the FBI has morphed into as much of a domestic spy agency as it is the vaunted organization dedicated to investigating cases that local police don’t have the resources or training to solve.
That’s part of the reason why left-wingers — who in past generations were quick to identify the agency with J. Edgar Hoover’s abuses, including spying on a host of non-criminal domestic figures and dissident groups — now love it. The hypocrisy here is as absurd as it is transparent. Tim Weiner, a former New York Times national security correspondent and author of a critical history of the FBI, has been gleeful about the prospect of jailing Trump on a documents charge but also tried to differentiate between Hoover’s wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the agency’s treating the former president like an organized crime figure who needs to be taken down by any means necessary. According to Weiner, Hoover’s actions were “witch hunts,” but agents browsing through Trump’s records is an “espionage investigation.” Of course, the only real difference here is that Hoover spied on people the left liked while Garland’s DOJ’s lawless behavior is directed at the person they hate most.
That supposedly serious people on the left actually still think Trump is a suspected foreign spy should signal to Republicans that what’s going on here is a rerun of the Russian farce. We’re seeing the same agency overreaches, leaks, and breathless reports in corporate media about the federal legal establishment finally getting the goods to lock Trump up.
In the face of this partisan hijacking of the DOJ and the FBI, tame complaints about Garland aren’t enough. Ultimately, no one in the bureau or DOJ was held accountable for the Russia hoax, something that undermined, perhaps fatally, confidence in the system. But for the same agencies to lead the country down the same kind of conspiratorial rabbit hole against the same political target is beyond the pale.
That’s created the kind of threat to the republic that requires Republicans to treat this as an emergency, rather than just another in a list of problematic actions by the Biden administration.
This isn’t about loyalty to Trump or whether Pence should have obeyed the president’s unreasonable request about him overturning the Electoral College vote. Pence’s compulsion to play the moderate conservative isn’t new. His betrayal of conservatives over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 while he was governor, in order to play to acceptable liberal opinion, shouldn’t be forgotten.
Defunding the FBI is an argument that will be easily misconstrued. But what conservatives need from those who aspire to lead them — and Pence is acting as if he wants to run for president in 2024 — is clarity and strength when it comes to confronting the administrative state. The Mar-a-Lago raid provided even more evidence that Trump is right to endorse a plan to fundamentally reform so-called “civil service” because of its proven partisan corruption. That would call for making at least 50,000 employees with policy decision-making power to be appointed by the president rather than act as a permanent, unelected, and unaccountable state within the state that assists Democrats and hinders Republicans, especially those like Trump or anyone like him who want to actually drain the D.C. swamp.
Pence’s joining the chorus of leftist pundits carping at conservative critiques of the FBI isn’t a matter of him not kowtowing to Trump. Rather, it is a sign that he can’t be trusted to effectively fight the left and the deep state that is determined to label all those who push back against the Biden/Garland war on dissent as criminals or potential terrorists. This is more proof that he’s someone who, though not lacking in personal virtue, doesn’t know what time it is. Someone who is that clueless about this crisis can’t lead Republicans in a struggle not so much to save Trump as it is to rescue the republic from the leftist war on wrongthink.