Mark Penn: FBI Trump-Russia investigation shows deep state was worse than we thought

I guess no one in the FBI ever watched “The Apprentice.” It was only the number-one rated show in the country.  In it, Donald Trump, more than any other person in the world, made famous weekly the phrase “you’re fired.”

Consequently when Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, exercising the authority he believed he had as president of the United States, he was taking the very action he made famous. It wasn’t out of character for him but in character, as he has been throughout his administration.  If anything, it’s hard to find anyone who has not been fired or threatened with firing. It’s what he does.

Now, let’s review some of the actions of the FBI director. Many of these actions were clear at the time; others we know only now. What we have learned since underscores that the president’s firing of Comey was more than justified, and the actions of Comey’s staff and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to trigger the most extensive investigation in history of a campaign, an administration and a president appear to be wholly without justification – and were based instead on politically inspired emotion and hysteria.


James Comey initiated his relations with Trump by holding a one-on-one meeting at which he detailed the allegations of the Steele dossier without disclosing its source. Almost immediately the contents of the dossier leaked out to press, also without the source or verification. Comey publicly confirmed there was an investigation of the administration and yet refused to confirm that the president was not a target of the investigation while he repeatedly told the president that was the case.

We then learned through Comey’s congressional testimony that he decided to take it upon himself to clear Hillary Clinton on her email controversy, and that the memo clearing her was drafted months in advance of much of the actual investigating. Once he believed the attorney general was compromised, as he testified, he should have asked for an independent counsel. Instead he exceeded his role and authority, politicizing the FBI in the process.

His testimony was enough to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to endorse Comey’s firing in writing, citing his complete lack of professionalism.

Now, in the year since, we have learned new information that buttresses the case for his firing.

Somehow every clear security breach in the Clinton camp was no big deal, while every fourth-hand contact with someone who could possibly be linked to Russia was evidence that Donald Trump was secretly serving as a Russian agent.

First, Comey’s tweets and comments reveal that he despised Trump, and so the self-serving memos he was making and then leaking about his every contact with the president were likely part of an effort to build a case against Trump. We learned that the FBI was wiretapping a number of Trump campaign officials largely on the basis of the Steele dossier. We learned that the dossier was authored by an operative who hated Trump and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign via hidden payments to their law firm. And we learned that Comey sent FBI agents to question General Michael Flynn about perfectly legal conversations they already had transcripts of, without following White House protocol, in a deliberate effort to entrap him.

On top of all of this, the Carter Page warrants flat-out state that the FBI had long before “concluded” the Trump campaign was working with the Russians.

Somehow every clear security breach in the Clinton camp – like an aide’s classified mail on the laptop of a sex offender or huge payments and contributions from Russian-connected sources – was no big deal, while every fourth-hand contact with someone who could possibly be linked to Russia was evidence that Donald Trump was secretly serving as a Russian agent.

How utterly ridiculous. I didn’t support Donald Trump, and there are lots of things he does I don’t support. But the idea that he was the Manchurian candidate working for the Russians when he ran on an America First platform is patently ridiculous.

What this chain of actions supports is that there is a deep state — a group of unelected officials who now wield power far beyond their constitutional authority – who believe, like Comey, that they know best. In this case it was aided by Obama administration holdovers who never accepted the outcome of the election and sought to prevent it and later reverse it.

It’s clear the same kind of retribution is going on in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) following Trump’s firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The recent indictment of a Russian lawyer, over statements in a civil case that she did not disclose her part in securing a document from a Russian prosecutor, shows the length that these prosecutors will go to using selective prosecution as a tool for making a case against Trump.

Like the guilty pleas to non-existent campaign violations in the Michael Cohen case, this indictment seeks to stretch the law. Never mind that this same Russian lawyer had dossier-pushing Fusion GPS as her client and dined with dossier maestro Glen Simpson the day before and after the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting. Simpson says he didn't really talk to her, so ... well, never mind.

Yes, there absolutely were some Russians trying to create confusion with the American electorate. In 1996, the Chinese poured many millions of dollars into the Bill Clinton campaign to curry favor. These governments and their would-be hangers on do try to ingratiate themselves with campaigns and take disruptive actions, just as we do.

But this is entirely different from believing that the president of the United States has sold out his country and that the FBI should be investigating — to the extent of even possibly wearing a wire — a White House because their boss was fired. A boss that, by the way, was then replaced by a distinguished career official, meaning no actual investigations of any kind were ever in jeopardy in any way.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said it best in an interview: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

That’s right. Dumb is apparently believing you can heap scorn on the intelligence community that brought you the Iraq war and backed the idea that ISIS was not an existential threat.

Dumb appears to be believing that as president, you can change foreign policy to try to reset Russian relations that had deteriorated under your predecessor, President Obama. Or that you can fire hostile, self-serving members in the Justice Department or FBI.


The response by the FBI and DOJ to Trump’s election was unprecedented, and while almost all of those behind these various actions have been exposed, fired, quit or retired, the Mueller independent counsel and SDNY investigations remain as the “insurance policies” set up to keep up the effort to remove the president for … something.

At least we are learning how this all really started, even as the answers continue to grow ever more unsettling.