The resignation of Michael Flynn, and the ongoing leaks from the Trump Administration, reveal a government at war with itself.
At the centre of the conflict is the fact that the executive branch has so far been unable to assert itself over the levers of government.
This is due to the nature of Donald Trump’s election victory. Note that I’m not referring to his loss of the popular vote. After all, George W. Bush had no problem securing control over the levers of government after his first win (where he also lost the popular vote).
The issue is that Trump ran definitively as an outsider. He pledged to “drain the swamp,” and change the whole Washington D.C. structure.
Whether he actually does this or not, the mere raising of the possibility will have many insiders on edge.
Trump inherits a massive government bureaucracy – filled with a combination of Democrats and Establishment Republicans – alongside many who are non-partisan. Since America is such a deeply divided country, much of the bureaucracy is less inclined to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and many are incredibly hostile to him and his administration.
Trump has fed into much of that hostility, particularly among the intelligence agencies. Trump has been heavily critical of America’s intelligence agency – even comparing them to Nazi Germany at one point.
Angering a whole bunch of spies and career intelligence operatives isn’t a wise move, so it’s no huge surprise that there are leaks.
It’s a dangerous moment, as it leaves America potentially weakened. A President needs to be able to rely on the intel agencies, and those agencies need to have trust in the President. If that’s not the case, America’s ability to respond to crises will be greatly diminished, and adversaries will take advantage of that weakness.
The real question now is one of authority. Trump could win a war of attrition within the government, as his appointees find like-minded people to fill the ranks of government. As that happens however, those not in support of the executive will be causing as much trouble as possible.
But it’s not a one way street. If Trump doesn’t gain trust among the intel agencies, he could very well find that his orders and directives go unanswered and the leaks will only intensify. This would cripple his government from the inside.
It remains to be seen who will win the war within America’s government. But the longer it goes unresolved, the more vulnerable America – and the free world – will be.
Photo – Twitter