Government

Reining in the Unaccountable 'Deep State'

There are lessons on two sides here: Stonewalling vs. reforming bureaucrats.

Michael Swartz · Apr. 13, 2018

Thanks to overuse and over-imagination, the term “deep state” has become somewhat cliché. But the term is still useful when it takes the threat of impeachment to pry lightly redacted information out of the Justice Department — a card that Rep. Devin Nunes had to play to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to cough up access to a two-page letter that was the linchpin of the entire Trump-Russia investigation. Worth noting: The material was originally requested last August. That’s the slowest of walks.

There’s a second good point to be made about this, though, and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy recently made it at National Review: Maybe the slow-walk is to protect Trump, or to create artificial tension to cover for a lack of legislative accomplishment.

“Prosecutorial power is executive in nature,” wrote McCarthy. “Federal prosecutors therefore exercise the president’s power. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have no power of their own; they exercise President Trump’s prosecutorial power for as long as that arrangement suits President Trump. The president does not need cause to fire them. He does not need to explain any dismissal to Congress — ‘Gee, it’s Thursday and I feel like firing someone’ is good enough.”

Rosenstein and Mueller, though, make perfect foils for Trump, who seems to thrive when he can portray himself as fighting against a particular enemy. Enter “the deep state,” which works both as a foil to Trump and, as McCarthy implies, a useful took for him as well.

But there are many in Trump’s administration who are truly swimming against the tide to make things better — and succeeding.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for example, is clearing away the deadwood of useless Obama-era rules that targeted males accused of rape on campus, made restrooms unsafe for young girls, and encouraged schools to turn a blind eye toward violent acts perpetrated by children of certain races. Most important for all students, DeVos declared earlier this year that, “at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”

Another example has been EPA head Scott Pruitt, who’s come under fire for picayune ethics questions about his choice of travel and lodging. Nate Jackson runs down the reasons why Pruitt’s really torquing the Left: “He stewarded the agency through the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, rolled back Barack Obama’s clean water and clean power regulations, cut costs by $1 billion, pushed through transparency reforms on how the EPA uses science, and … scrapped Obama’s vehicle-emissions rules.” That’s a solid record of accomplishment for a full term, let alone less than 14 months.

And then there’s Mick Mulvaney’s tenure at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), where’s he’s been driving Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren up a wall. As Philip Wegmann describes it in the Washington Examiner, it’s a match of Mulvaney, who “hates the organization he leads, because it’s unaccountable to the people it governs,” against Warren, who “hates the organization she used to love, because it’s unaccountable to her and under [Mulvaney’s] control.”

After Warren — frustrated that Mulvaney wouldn’t answer a 105-question diatribe of a letter outside of his scheduled congressional testimony — lashed out at Mulvaney for “hurting real people to score cheap political points,” Mulvaney chided Warren with a taunting comeback. “Prior to receiving your letter,” said Mulvaney, “I never would have thought to consider … whether your vote against repealing the bureau’s arbitration rule was influenced by campaign donations you may have received from trial lawyers or other parties who stood to gain financially from the rule. Perhaps I should reconsider.”

Actually, Warren should be grateful that Mulvaney said anything. As he noted, thanks to the statute creating the CFPB, “I believe it would be my statutory right to just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while you all ask questions.” In other words, he’s not accountable to anyone by Democrat design.

This bitter fight between Mulvaney and Warren is all part of his effort to place the heretofore barely accountable agency — which gets its funding from the Federal Reserve and, thus, doesn’t answer to Congress — under some sort of oversight and control. Democrats simply can’t stand a federal agency steeped in “bureaucratic fiat and administrative absolutism” being held to heel by a Republican.

And that may be the beauty of having the Trump-Mueller imbroglio dominating the airwaves: A lot of good stuff is happening behind the scenes, and the press that would normally circle the wagons to “save” the Department of Education, EPA or CFPB is being distracted by the shiny object of Robert Mueller’s interminable investigation of Trump. Chalk one up for the swamp drainers.

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