One consequence of Trumpism that I'm grateful for is that it's clarified my appreciation for professionals in the intelligence community -- folks who I had little awareness of prior to Trump. I still remember my jaw dropping while watching the shameful speech that Trump gave in front of the Memorial Wall at the C.I.A. Headquarters, in which he rambled on about himself and whined about the press, while career professionals of the CIA listened on, no doubt in shock. There's a moving article by Ira Winkler of The Hill that outlines why the speech was so inappropriate, offensive, and shameful. Here is an excerpt:
"Let's talk about what Trump didn't: the people the stars on the Memorial Wall represent. Of the 117 stars representing CIA who died under various conditions, 16 of these people can still not be named, as publicly identifying them still would compromise intelligence operations to this day. This includes deaths dating back almost 40 years."
It strikes me that our society has thankfully grown a lot in terms of recognizing the heroic sacrifices of military veterans. We thank them, reflect on their service, and our politicians regularly say things like "God bless our troops." Little is said, though, about those in our intelligence community.
Since the rise of Trump, I've started paying attention a little bit more to folks like Bob Mueller and James Comey, both of whom have deep roots in the intelligence community. Bob Mueller is an American hero, as I have discussed. There are many on the left still furious at James Comey. Hillary Clinton, Nate Silver, and I all believe that the Comey letter/October surprise likely cost Hillary Clinton the election (that, and a combination of many other factors). But I still think he is an American patriot -- albeit one who made a mistake, which I believe was based on assumptions and not facts. That aside, the man has given a lifetime of a service to his country. Both individuals are emblematic of the community at large: before the 2016 election, both were relatively anonymous outside the bubble of "insiders" or those closely following politics. Both have a history of taking heroic stands, in anonymity, on behalf of the American people.
Mueller and Comey, though, are just the most high profile figures associated with the intelligence community. Despite the onslaught of insults from Trump and his defender, the professionals who work in U.S. intelligence have continued to the hard and important work of keeping America safe and keeping politicians and political hacks accountable to the laws of the United States.
I was thinking about this today when I watched Meet the Press, and Chuck Todd explained the increasing attacks from Republicans against Bob Mueller. "The process is rigged," they say -- but as Chuck observed, they push back on the process because the facts aren't on their side. It strikes me that that Democrats are missing an important messaging opportunity in the Mueller debate. We're doing a somewhat decent job of defending Mueller and his team's integrity, but less of a good job defending Mueller's inquiry itself. Trump's team is essentially saying "time's up," which is an insane position. The inquiry has been a massive success, with two guilty pleas and two individuals who will be prosecuted. People are bring brought to justice, the truth is being revealed, and isn't that the point? Even if the inquiry ended today, with no new developments (which seems incredibly unlikely), it would have been a success. Patience, patience, patience.
Almost all the action has occurred within the last month or two -- now is no time to slow things down. So as the chorus of people trying to undermine Mueller's investigation grows, now amid claims that the Special Counsel's office wrongfully obtained Trump transition e-mails, I hope leaders of all political persuasions will stand up for Mueller, for justice, and for the truth.