How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State
How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State
A systemic crisis in the global Deep System has driven the violent radicalization of a Deep State faction
By Nafeez Ahmed
A special report published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.
President Donald Trump is not fighting a war on the establishment: he’s fighting a war to protect the establishment from itself, and the rest of us.
At first glance, this isn’t obvious. Among his first actions upon taking office, Trump vetoed the Trans Pacific Partnership, the controversial free trade agreement which critics rightly said would lead to US job losses while giving transnational corporations massive power over national state policies on health, education and other issues.
Trump further plans to ditch the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US, which would have diluted key state regulations on the activities of transnational corporates on issues like food safety, the environment and banking; and to renegotiate NAFTA, potentially heightening tensions with Canada.
Trump appears to be in conflict with the bulk of the US intelligence community, and is actively seeking to restructure the government to minimize checks and balances, and thus consolidate his executive power.
His White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has restructured the National Security Council, granting himself and Trump’s Chief of Staff Richard ‘Reince’ Priebus permanent seats on the NSC’s Principals’ Committee – opening the door to the White House politicization of the government’s highest national security body.
Trump’s White House has purged almost the entire senior staff of the State Department, and tested the loyalty of the Department of Homeland Security with its new ‘Muslim ban’ order.
So what is going on? One approach to framing the Trump movement comes from Jordan Greenhall, who sees it as a conservative (“Red Religion”) Insurgency against the liberal (“Blue Church”) Globalist establishment (the “Deep State”). Greenhall suggests, essentially, that Trump is leading a nationalist coup against corporate neoliberal globalization using new tactics of “collective intelligence” by which to outsmart and outspeed his liberal establishment opponents.
But at best this is an extremely partial picture.
In reality, Trump has ushered in something far more dangerous:
The Trump regime is not operating outside the Deep State, but mobilizing elements within it to dominate and strengthen it for a new mission.
The Trump regime is not acting to overturn the establishment, but to consolidate it against a perceived crisis of a wider transnational Deep System.
The Trump regime is not a conservative insurgency against the liberal establishment, but an act of ideologically constructing the current crisis as a conservative-liberal battleground, led by a particularly radicalized white nationalist faction of a global elite.
The act is a direct product of a global systemic crisis, but is a short-sighted and ill-conceived reaction, pre-occupied with surface symptoms of that crisis. Unfortunately, those hoping to resist the Trump reaction also fail to understand the system dynamics of the crisis.
All this can only be understood when we look at the big picture. That means the following: we must look a little more closely at the individuals inside Trump’s administration, the wider social and institutional networks they represent, and what emerges from their being interlocked in government; we must contextualize this against two factors, the escalation of global systemic crisis, and the Trump regime’s ideological framing(s) of that crisis (both for themselves, and for public consumption); we must connect this with the impact on the transnational Deep System, and how that links up with the US Deep State; and we must then explore what this all means in terms of the scope of actions likely to be deployed by the Trump regime to pursue its discernable goals.
This investigation will help to establish a ground state for anyone on which to build a meaningful strategy of response that accounts for the full systemic complexity of our Trumpian moment.
So the first step to diagnosing our Trumpian moment is to see who is leading it. We’ll begin by looking at a cross-section of some of Trump’s most prominent nominations and appointments.
- The Trump regimeMoney Monsters
If all Trump’s appointees are confirmed, his administration will be among the most business-heavy, corporate-friendly governments in American history.
Five of the 15 people nominated by Trump as Cabinet secretaries have no public sector experience, and have spent their entire careers in the corporate sector. “That would be more business people with no public-sector experience than have ever served in the Cabinet at any one time,”, concludes Pew Research Center.
Betsy DeVos has been nominated for Education Secretary. She’s a billionaire married to the Amway conglomerate.
Andrew Puzder has been nominated as Labor Secretary. He’s a billionaire CEO of fastfood chain owner CKE Restaurants.
Trump’s nominee for Commerce Secretary is Wall Street veteran Wilbur Ross. He’s a billionaire financier who invests in buying and selling companies in distressed industries, and who made his early fortune as a fund manager at the Rothschild Group.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, is a former partner at the global investment bank Goldman Sachs, a hedge fund manager and, until his nomination, a board member of the Fortune 500 financial holding company, CIT Group. He’s also a member of the Yale University secret society, Skull and Bones.
Vincent Viola is Trump’s nominee for Army Secretary. He’s a billionaire, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and current chairman of Virtu Financial, a high-frequency trading firm.
Linda McMahon is Trump’s Small Business Administrator. She’s a co-founder and former CEO of WWE, which is now valued at around $1.5 billion, and married to billionaire WWE promoter Vincent McMahon.
Gary Cohn is Trump’s chief economic advisor and Director of the White House National Economic Council. He just left his previous post as president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs for the job.
Anthony Scaramucci has served as a senior advisor to Trump on the executive committee of the Presidential Transition Team. Previously he was founding co-managing partner of global investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Like Steve Bannon, he also began his career at Goldman Sachs.
Walter ‘Jay’ Clayton is Trump’s nominee for the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the financial industry’s top regulatory watchdog. Yet Clayton himself is a Wall Street lawyer who has worked on deals for major banks, such as Barclays Capital’s acquisition of Lehman Brothers’ assets, the sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase, and the US Treasury’s capital investment in Goldman Sachs. In the same capacity, he has campaigned to reduce restrictions on foreign public companies, and sought lax enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. His wife, Gretchen Butler, works for Goldman Sachs as a private wealth advisor.
Trump’s crack team of money monsters is clearly not planning on acting in the interests of American workers — they will instead do what they know best: use the considerable power of the American state to break down as many regulatory constraints on global banking finance as possible, with a special view to privilege US banks and corporations.
Fossil Fuel Freaks
Trump’s administration has not just been bought by Wall Street. It’s been bought by the oil, gas and coal industries.
Rex Tillerson is Trump’s Secretary of State, and former chairman and CEO of giant oil and gas conglomerate ExxonMobil. As the world’s largest oil major of all, ExxonMobil is the de facto king of fossil fuel interests. Tillerson has close business ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and has previously headed up the joint US-Russian oil company Exxon Neftegas.
Tillerson is a friend of Igor Sechin, who heads up the military security services faction of the Kremlin known as ‘Siloviki’. ExxonMobil also had intimate ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates under Tillerson. In any case, Trump has richly rewarded Tillerson for services rendered — 91% of the $1.8 million donated to federal candidates by ExxonMobil’s PAC under Tillerson for this election cycle, went to Republicans.
It’s well-known that ExxonMobil has funded climate denialism to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. What’s less well-known is that in the 1970s, ExxonMobil’s own scientific research fully validated the scientific reality of climate change. Yet company executives made a self-serving business-decision to suppress these findings, and fund efforts to discredit climate science.
Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, is Trump’s Secretary of Energy. Perry holds board directorships at Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which jointly developed the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren, donated $5 million to a super-PAC supportive of Perry. More generally, his two presidential campaigns received over $2.6 million from the oil and gas industry.
Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General in Oklahoma, is the new head of the Environment Protection Agency. Pruitt has a track record of launching federal lawsuits to weaken and overturn EPA regulations not just on carbon emissions, but on all sorts of basic environmental rules on air and water pollution. The New York Times reports that he and other Republican attorney generals have forged an “unprecedented, secretive alliance” with the oil industry.
Congressman Ryan Zinke is Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior. During Senate confirmation hearings, he refused to admit the accuracy of the scientific consensus on human activity being the dominant cause of climate change. Zinke has supported clean energy measures in the past, but in May 2016, he sponsored a bill for a time limit on Obama’s moratorium on federal coal leasing. He routinely voted against environmental protection measures, supporting fossil fuel use, seeking to minimize public and state involvement in managing public lands, while opposing protections for endangered species.
Zinke’s philosophy is basically ‘drill, baby, drill’. That’s why he’s taken over $300,000 in campaign donations from oil and gas companies that want to accelerate drilling across public lands.
Mike Catanzaro is Trump’s nominee for Special Assistant for Energy and the Environment. He is also a climate-denying lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, working for Koch Industries, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), Halliburton, Noble Energy, Hess Corporation, and many others. Early on in his career, he was Deputy Policy Director of the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.
The fossil fuel freaks want to burn all the oil, gas and coal they can, at any cost — and they are willing to dismantle whatever environmental protections stand in their way.
Black Ops Brigade
It would be mistaken to assume that Trump’s conflicts with the US intelligence community mean he is necessarily at odds with the military-industrial complex. On the contrary, his defense appointees and advisors are embedded across the military-industrial complex. Trump’s education secretary, DeVos, is the sister of Erik Prince, the notorious founder of disgraced private security firm Blackwater, now known as Academi, which was outed for slaughtering 17 Iraqi civilians.
A source in Trump’s transition team confirms that Erik Prince has advised Trump’s team on intelligence and security issues. Prince now runs another security firm, Frontier Services Group. He supports Trump’s proposal for the US military to grab Iraq’s oil and recommends the escalated deployment of private defense contractors across the Middle East and North Africa, such as in Libya, to crackdown on refugees.
General ‘Mad Dog’ James Mattis is Trump’s Secretary of Defense. He was also, until his resignation due to his political appointment, on the board of directors of General Dynamics, the fifth largest private defense contractor in the world. Mattis is also on the board of Theranos, a biotechnology company known for its questionable automated fingerstick blood test technology.
Lieutenant-General Mike Flynn was Trump’s National Security Advisor until his resignation on February 13 over his ties to Russia. He is a former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under Obama, and a longstanding military intelligence and special operations insider. Previously, he was director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command; director of intelligence for the US Central Command; commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; chair of the Military Intelligence Board; and Assistant Director of National Intelligence. Flynn also runs Flynn Intel Group, a private intelligence consulting firm.
Flynn has just co-authored a book with Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies. Ledeen is a leading neoconservative defense consultant and former Reagan administration appointee who was involved in the Iran–Contra affair as a consultant of then US National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane. Currently a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he was a staunch advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (he was directly involved with the Yellowcake forgeries attempting to fabricate a weapons of mass destruction threat to justify the war) and has campaigned for military interventions in Syria, Iran and beyond. Ledeen’s aggressive foreign policy vision was deeply influential in the formation of the Bush administration’s foreign policy strategy.
It’s worth noting how low Ledeen stoops with his political philosophy. In his 2000 book, Tocqueville on American Character, Ledeen argues that in some situations, “[i]n order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’” (p. 90) He even argues that this is sanctioned by the Christian God: “Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situations in which a leader is justified in committing evil.” (p. 117)
That sort of thinking has led him to endorse the ‘cauldronization’ of the Middle East. In 2002, he wrote in support of invading Iraq that: “One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today.”
General John F. Kelly is Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. He is a retired United States Marine Corps general who previously served under Obama as commander of the US Southern Command, responsible for American military operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Before that Kelly was the commanding general of the Multi-National Force-West in Iraq, and the commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North. Kelly is also a vice chairman at the Spectrum Group, a defense contractor lobbying firm; and on the board of directors of two other private Pentagon contractors, Michael Baker International and Sallyport Global.
James Woolsey, the former CIA director and neoconservative stalwart — a former Vice President at NSA-contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and among Michael Ledeen’s bosses at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — was an early Trump supporter, and a senior advisor to Trump on his transition team. He dropped out over reservations with Trump’s plans to restructure the intelligence community.
Lieutenant General Joseph Keith Kellogg is Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of Trump’s White House National Security Council – but has replaced Flynn as acting National Security Advisor. Kellogg was the US military’s top information technology official during the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He went on to become chief operating officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, the mechanism for the US occupation of Iraq, from November 2003 to March 2004 — the period widely recognized as being particularly corrupt and inept.
In between, Kellogg had joined the board of directors of US government IT contractor, GTSI Corp, where he returned as an independent director after his Iraq stint from 2004 until 2013 — when the firm changed its name to ‘UNICOM Government Inc.’ in an attempt to distance itself from earlier revelations of misconduct.
Kellogg later joined the Advisory Board of US defense contractor Raytheon’s Trusted Computer Solutions Inc., and the Strategic Advisory Board of RedXDefence, a US military contractor part-owned by Regina Dugan, former director of the Pentagon’s Defense and Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
In 2012, Wired magazine outed RedXDefense for creating completely rubbish bomb detection technology under a multi-million dollar DARPA contract during Dugan’s tenure. Despite its flaws, the tech was purchased widely by the US military, and numerous allied militaries around the world.