US President Donald Trump looks at the empty chair of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (L), D-New York, after Schumer cancelled their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2017. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Spicer doesn't reject 'deep state' existence
00:49 - Source: CNN

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The idea of the deep state was pushed most notably by former White House strategist Stephen Bannon

The notion of a deep state was debated at length in the early days of the Trump administration

Washington CNN  — 

He still believes it all, according to a stunning new New York Times report. Barack Obama’s birth certificate. The inauguration crowd sizes. Being cheated out of the popular vote. Each of the conspiracy theories President Donald Trump has pushed, he still harbors in private conversations with senators and aides, according to the report, which also suggests he questions whether it’s his own voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Nobody’s on the record and he doesn’t say the stuff in public, so even if he believes it, it’s not like he’s pushing it exactly.

Trump is, however, now officially pushing a more sinister conspiracy theory – the so-called deep state – the idea that an entrenched bureaucracy is working to delegitimize him.

For the first time, Trump mentioned the idea of a “deep state” on Twitter on Tuesday evening, apparently after watching Fox News.

“Charles McCullough, the respected fmr Intel Comm Inspector General, said public was misled on Crooked Hillary Emails. ‘Emails endangered National Security.’ Why aren’t our deep State authorities looking at this? Rigged & corrupt?” He tagged Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson in the tweet.

We’ll get to Trump and the Clinton emails in a second, but first, the deep state. Although it’s a favorite theory of conservative media outlets such as Breitbart and Fox News, the idea of the deep state was pushed most notably by former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, who remains a Trump ally.

Outside the White House since August, Bannon’s made it his goal to target entrenched Republican senators, many of whom, presumably, are complicit in the deep state’s goal of controlling Washington.

The notion of a deep state was debated at length in the early days of the Trump administration, as the government switched leadership.

“I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office, there are people who stay in government and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration,” then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in March. “So I don’t think it should come as any surprise there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and may have believed in that agenda and may continue to seek it,” he went on.

For recent evidence of a deep state mentality, Trump could look to the controversy over who should be leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after agency head Richard Cordray resigned.

Someone perhaps in favor of the idea of a deep state might look to Cordray’s last-minute appointment of an aide as acting director, hoping she would step in to lead the agency until Congress appointed someone new. Trump’s administration scrambled to appoint Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to be the interim leader instead. Mulvaney is no fan of the agency, once voted to disband it, and generally wants a smaller government.

Aides posted pictures of him, hard at work with thick binders.

And a federal judge agreed Tuesday night, keeping Cordray in the office temporarily.

Trump, 1; deep state, 0.

Cordray, himself, told Politico that any fight over bureau leadership would be temporary until the Senate confirmed a successor.

“Ultimately, Trump will make an appointment. They will have to go through a confirmation process, and we won’t have somebody who is holding two offices at once,” he said, according to Politico.

Now back to Hillary Clinton’s emails and Charles McCullough, the Obama-appointed former intelligence community inspector general who appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night and said he faced personal and professional blowback from Clinton allies after sharing information about classified information passed through Clinton’s server with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Trump has kept a steady drumbeat of focus back on Clinton’s emails, even though she’s no longer in government service and he defeated her more than a year ago.

That pressure has kept pace with the investigation into his own staffers and campaign by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the US election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after he declined to mention multiple meetings he had with Russians during the campaign.

When Trump gripes about why the deep state isn’t looking at Clinton’s emails, he’s probably really griping about the investigations into his own campaign’s activities.

Trump has much to fear from Mueller, whose work has already yielded a guilty plea form former adviser George Papadopoulos and the indictment of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, along with Manafort’s business partner.

While he is a former FBI director, however, Mueller is not exactly the deep state. He was appointed as special counsel by Trump’s deputy attorney general, although Trump was irate at Sessions for allowing the appointment to happen.

But it’s not an entrenched bureaucracy. It’s a special counsel methodically investigating possible collusion.