On February 2, acting with the authorization of Donald Trump, the Republican leadership of the House Intelligence Committee released a four-page memo produced by its Republican majority on alleged FISA abuses. FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts are the arm of the judiciary that approves electronic surveillance, based on evidence provided by law enforcement.
The memo’s central charge is that in securing permission from the FISA court to wire tap Trump campaign staff, the FBI used as evidence a dossier authored by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele on the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, but allegedly did not disclose that this dossier was funded, in part, by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and therefore this was politically motivated. It alleges that Steele said he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected,” and this is “clear evidence of Steele’s bias,” which was not reflected in the applications and renewals for electronic surveillance.
It is not only the content, but the whole way in which the memo came to be written and published, that represents a further leap in assaulting the norms of how the U.S. bourgeois state has functioned for many decades, and aiming for the imposition of a new norm: a fascist executive power ultimately unconstrained by other branches of government or ruling institutions. In this new model, the role of these others is to facilitate, act as an auxiliary of, and provide cover for the power of the executive branch, which itself is highly concentrated in the hands of the president, creating a force that is not accountable and is all but unchallengeable, either by bourgeois opponents or by the masses of people.
Overall norms of liberal bourgeois democracy that underlie the much vaunted “checks and balances” of the U.S. Constitution, its separation of powers, and the overall rule of law are under fascist assault—and this act marks a step in this direction.
Trump and the Republican-Fascist Noise Machine
The Republican-fascists who released the memo with Trump’s authorization and blessing, with their propaganda organ Fox Fascist News, are using the memo to allege political bias in the FBI leadership against Trump, and to undermine the investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, claiming they originated in the Steele dossier, and therefore are politically motivated. Fox fascist mouthpiece Sean Hannity constantly trumpets the memo revelations as “the biggest political scandal in U.S. history”!
Their refrain is that the warrant would not have been issued had the FISA court known of the funding source. Two points: first, there was much more (including what we don’t know) in the request for the warrant, and the warrant has been renewed more than once. Second, and more fundamental, the reality is that in the first 35 years of existence of the FISA courts, 35,529 warrants were requested… and all but 12 of them were granted. Especially since 9/11, the federal government has had almost complete free rein to spy on anyone on the planet (as revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks). The fascists have no problem with that at all. But supposedly the one known time when this routinely granted application for surveillance was applied to a Trump operative, it revealed a grand conspiracy. Besides, the memo itself contains a reference to another staffer potentially triggering the surveillance due to alleged claims he made independently about the Russians having access to emails from the Clinton campaign.
The memo names present and recent past leadership of the FBI and the Justice Department as requesting the specific electronic surveillance, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (overseeing the Mueller investigation), former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (recently forced to resign), and former FBI Director James Comey (fired by Trump last May). The Republican-Fascist Noise Machine argues that the leadership of the FBI has been part of an ongoing politically motivated attack and conspiracy to undermine Trump’s presidency. Alleging its anti-Trump bias and roots, they question the credibility and objectivity of the Mueller investigation (of alleged Trump campaign cooperation with Russia in tampering with the 2016 election, and related obstruction of justice), calling for its dismissal.
Donald Trump Jr. said the memo meant “game over” for the Mueller investigation, echoed by Hannity and others. Donald Trump himself tweeted, “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe.” Arizona congressman Paul Gosar demanded that the high-ranking present and former officials named in the memo be tried for “treason”—which can carry the death penalty!
Shredding of Norms: An Act Towards Fascist Consolidation
Along with the Democrats, the memo’s release was strongly opposed by the intelligence agencies, with the FBI issuing a rare public statement to express its “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” These concerns and opposition, voiced by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, has also been echoed by past leaders of the intelligence agencies like John Brennan, the previous head of the CIA, who angrily charged that the “absence of moral and ethical leadership in the White House is fueling this government crisis.”
We don’t know all the divisions and splits within ruling class institutions sparked by the election and coming to power of this fascist regime. What is clear is that the release of the memo against the advice of the FBI, the director of national intelligence, and others represents a breaking of norms in how ruling class institutions function in relation to each other. It also represents a deliberate act towards consolidating fascism, taking on obstacles to its program and will, including in the state apparatus itself.
Despite Rosenstein’s opposition to the release of the memo, and Christopher Wray, FBI director, saying that its release would cause “grave” harm to national security, Trump declassified the whole thing. Drawing on “top secret” government documents that intelligence committee members are sworn to protect, and legally forbidden to publish or even publicly discuss, Republicans found an almost never used loophole to justify doing so. House speaker Paul Ryan said they must “cleanse the organization,” referring to the FBI. Translation: a “purified” FBI thoroughly “partisan” towards the fascist program (and loyal to Donald Trump).
Trump’s public disregard of the warnings of key leaders of the FBI and the Justice Department were a way of asserting his uncontested authority over major, supposedly independent, institutions of the executive branch. Many commentators have even described the Trump regime as being “at war” with its own Justice Department and the FBI.
In fact, the reason all manner and stripe of Republican-fascists are so cravenly loyal to the notoriously disloyal and treacherous Trump, is because of his willingness and ability to shred and shatter the old norms that have stood as barriers to achieving the aims and objectives of all the fascist currents, from Christian fundamentalists, to white supremacists, to anti-immigrant xenophobes.
Along with attacking those resolutely opposed to fascism and the capitalist-imperialist system of which it is a part, one of the main lines of attack of the fascists is “Weimar,” or liberal bourgeois democracy (drawing from the Weimar Republic, the bourgeois-democratic republic in Germany after World War 1, replaced and forcibly abolished when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in the 1930s)—even though it represents the rule of the same capitalist-imperialist system, though of a section of its ruling strata with sharp differences with fascism. The Republican-fascist attack on the specific people named in the memo, on these institutions of law enforcement, on the Democrats and the media, and on these norms is part of the attack on Weimar. The fascist social base has been whipped up and further hardened around this through the release of this memo, and the braying of the Republican-fascist noise machine and its propagandists, which include the Fox Fascist News anchors.
Some liberal talking heads, including Rachel Maddow, are celebrating the fact that upon release, the memo was revealed to be nothing but a smattering of lies and distortions mixed with hot air, and that even if one accepted its allegations as true, what it is describing is not “scandalous,” or even inappropriate action by the FBI. But they miss, misinform, and mislead. These liberal commentators avoid—and regardless of intent, deceive the people on—the fundamental point of all this marking an act towards fascist consolidation.
The FBI: No “Friend of the People,” Yet a Target of a Fascist Attack That Needs to Be Opposed
As revcom.us has previously gone into in depth, the Justice Department, and the FBI which is under its authority, are anything but instruments of “Justice.” In fact, they exist for the purposes of imposing the power of the whole system and the state which enforces the rule—and rules—of this system on the masses of people. For a century, those struggling for social change, from communists to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to Native American resistance groups, have been—in their tens of thousands—in the crosshairs of the FBI. They have been under surveillance, arrested, beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and sometimes murdered by the FBI. After the 1960s, exposure of some of the worst abuses led to some new rules and orientation meant to constrain some of their torture, murder, and other crimes which were undercutting the legitimacy of the FBI and of the U.S. as a whole. But the FBI still surveils, terrorizes, and frames up whole sections of the people, especially the Muslim and immigrant communities, and it aims to strike terror into the hearts of anyone trying to bring about meaningful social change, much less revolution.
And neither the Trump forces nor the Democrats have the slightest problem with that—in fact, they try to outdo each other in praise of the FBI’s repressive role, praising the “brave men and women,” the “rank and file,” etc. Democrats and liberal media like MSNBC are trying to outdo each other in this praise, whitewashing the FBI’s role and history. And part of the peculiar polarization effected by this fascist move against the FBI is that sections of progressive people—who knew better—are being won to its defense, glorifying its role, full stop. Those who revel or find humor in this “irony” are themselves normalizing fascism. All this needs to be struggled against, and change!
Nevertheless, this assault on the FBI, its independence, portends great dangers for the people, and these attacks have to be opposed. Why? It’s part of the wholesale assault on established norms that opens the door to further horrors, the undermining of rule of law and civil liberties, the attack on sections of vulnerable people without due process (including immigrants), the furtherance of white supremacist policies—all as part of an overall fascist program and consolidation. The gravest threat of this fascist consolidation is to the masses of people—in the U.S. and around the world. What is coming into being—unless people move decisively to stop it—is a regime squarely against Black and Latino people, non-white immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people. It is also seeking to impose U.S. interests on the whole world through the reckless threat, and quite possibly the use, of its potentially world-destroying nuclear arsenal.
The Trump/Pence regime is the ultimate nightmare for humanity, and it needs to be not just “constrained,” or “contained,” waiting till the next elections, but driven from power at the soonest possible time. In this context, the correct way to approach these sharp divides at the top is concentrated in the following orientation:
The Democrats, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, etc., are seeking to resolve the crisis with the Trump presidency on the terms of this system, and in the interests of the ruling class of this system, which they represent. We, the masses of people, must go all out, and mobilize ourselves in the millions, to resolve this in our interests, in the interests of humanity, which are fundamentally different from and opposed to those of the ruling class.
This, of course, does not mean that the struggle among the powers that be is irrelevant or unimportant; rather, the way to understand and approach this (and this is a point that must also be repeatedly driven home to people, including through necessary struggle, waged well) is in terms of how it relates to, and what openings it can provide for, “the struggle from below”—for the mobilization of masses of people around the demand that the whole regime must go, because of its fascist nature and actions and what the stakes are for humanity.
Revolution newspaper/revcom.us, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, provides the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the whole process of carrying out our strategy for revolution. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand, and act to radically change, the world.
Originally published at revcom.us