U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives for a meeting on the conflict in Syria during a meeting of the G-20 Foreign Ministers in Bonn, Germany, Feb. 17, 2017. (Oliver Berg/AP)
(ANALYSIS) — According to pundits, politicians, and even the executive branch itself, the Trump administration is at war with the so-called “Deep State.” Though the Deep State – sometimes also called the Shadow government – is hard to define, it is essentially the part of the political establishment that are permanent power factions operating within Washington. These factions guide policy according to a unified agenda regardless of who is in office, often exercising their power secretively which frees them of any sort of accountability.
Recently, this “Deep State” has seemed determined to undermine, discredit, and destroy the Trump administration, having allegedly been responsible for the leaks that led to Michael Flynn’s resignation among other controversies. Though much of the Deep State’s activities intended to undermine Trump has so far largely been attributed to the Intelligence Community, it extends much deeper including many other federal departments and agencies, including the State Department.
Last year, prior to the election, the FBI released heavily redacted interview summaries of the Bureau’s investigation into Trump’s challenger Hillary Clinton. Among the allegations in the documents was the disclosure of a highly-secretive, high-level group within the U.S. government which the FBI named the “Shadow Government,” a group which had allegedly intervened in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton in order to prevent her indictment.
According to the FBI’s interview summary:
“There was a powerful group of very high-ranking STATE officials that some referred to as ‘The 7th Floor Group’ or ‘The Shadow Government.’ This group met every Wednesday afternoon to discuss the FOIA process, Congressional records, and everything CLINTON-related to FOIA/Congressional inquiries.”
The other name used by the FBI – “The 7th-floor group” – refers to the fact that this facet of the Shadow Government is located on the State Department’s 7th floor where long-serving, elite diplomats are employed.
Though all previous administrations have left the “7th-floor group” more or less untouched, the newly-minted Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, abruptly chose to fire most of the State Department employees working on this floor. Last Friday, Tillerson’s top aides told the vast majority of the Department’s seventh-floor staff that “their services were no longer needed,” CBS News reports.
This is the second round of firings at the State Department since Trump took office as four other top officials had been let go at the end of January. One of the employees fired recently, Tom Countryman, told CBS News he was worried that the White House was showing its intent to cut out the State Department in order to prevent allegedly “nonpartisan” officials from challenging the executive branch on foreign policy matters.
The firings came soon after Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a meeting which drew criticism from the U.S. political establishment as not a single State Department official was included in the meetings. A State Department official told CBS News that the decision to change the meeting’s normal procedures was done to facilitate “a more personal discussion.” This, along with the recent firings, once again make plain the great rift between those “Deep State” elements that stay in place throughout Presidential administrations and the fledgling Trump administration.
Though this latest move by Tillerson and the Trump administration may serve to lessen some of the Deep State’s influence in U.S. politics, it is worth noting that such entrenched elements will not go off quietly into the night. At the very least, there will be some sort of retaliation for this latest move, meaning that even more controversy can be expected in the months ahead for Trump and the executive branch over which he now presides.
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