The Praetorian Guard began as a small unit focused on providing security for the senior leaders of the Roman Republic and thereby protecting Rome from its enemies. As the Republic became an empire and the empire grew, the Praetorian Guard expanded and changed, taking on vast intelligence and security roles and acquiring enormous power.
Ultimately, the Guard, which had been created to safeguard Rome from external threats came to wield huge political influence and to acquire the ability to install emperors of its own choosing.
Men whose job it was to protect the state now took unto themselves the right to control it.
We may be witnessing the same phenomenon at play today in our own republic.
Sometime in the final months of the Obama administration senior officials at the top of the intelligence and law enforcement communities, with the assistance of individuals inside and close to the campaign of Hillary Clinton, appear to have made a decision. They would not tolerate the rise of Donald Trump. He was unacceptable to them. He was not their choice.
When an initial effort to smear candidate Donald Trump with false, salacious rumors of ties to Russia failed, the focus of the effort against him shifted and expanded. This was no longer a huge mudslinging operation. This was now a concerted effort to destroy a President and those around him. Just as the Praetorians ultimately decided they would only serve Emperors whom they chose, these men and women decided they would determine who would sit in the Oval Office.
For the last three years, we have watched almost daily as the scope of this coup attempt has become ever clearer. This past week was no exception. A handful of recently declassified documents from within the FBI have shown us once again just how powerful and nefarious this effort was.
Michael Flynn is a former Lieutenant-General in the United States Army. He was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under President Obama. He was fired by President Obama in 2014 – allegedly based on issues of temperament and management style. Other sources have suggested his real offense was clashing with Obama over Iran policy and counterterrorism strategy. Flynn formally retired from the U.S. Army in August of 2014.
By February of 2015, Flynn was appearing regularly on Fox News as a critic of the Obama Administration. As early as August 2015 Flynn was providing national security briefings to then-candidate Donald Trump. In February 2016, the press was reporting that Flynn was now formally an advisor to the Trump campaign.
In July 2016 CIA Director Brennan, by his own admission, created what he calls a “fusion cell” at CIA Headquarters whose focus was Russian interference in the Presidential election and supposed collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The “fusion cell” included personnel from the CIA, NSA, and the FBI. At about the same time, the FBI began an investigation into the Trump campaign called “Crossfire Hurricane.” One portion of that investigation, codenamed “Crossfire Razor” focussed on General Flynn.
On January 4, 2017, the FBI agents involved in Crossfire Razor officially decided to close the investigation of General Flynn having found “no derogatory information” concerning him. The same day, senior FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened and – without apparent explanation – directed that the case would remain open. He specifically noted that the action was being taken on orders from the “7th floor” (FBI leadership).
On January 20, 2017, President Trump was inaugurated. Four days later FBI agents went to the White House to meet with General Flynn who had been named as President Trump’s National Security Advisor. The meeting with Flynn was arranged personally by FBI Director Comey. Flynn was apparently told that the FBI agents wanted to discuss with him a recent telephone conversation between him and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. No indication was given to him of any criminal focus.
Of note, since the Russian Ambassador’s phone was being monitored by American intelligence, the FBI already knew what Flynn had discussed in this call and had already determined there was no wrongdoing.
Yet, recently declassified information shows that in advance of the meeting with Flynn the FBI personnel involved in the meeting discussed their goals for the meeting. Handwritten notes now released show these comments among others. “What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
The author of the notes is not yet established conclusively. They are believed, however, to have been written by former FBI counterintelligence director Bill Priestap. The notes were apparently made in January 2017, following a meeting with former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Let’s consider the context in which those comments were made. General Flynn was four days into his service as the National Security Advisor for the recently elected President of the United States. Flynn was a retired three-star general who had previously headed one of the nation’s top intelligence agencies (DIA). The FBI already knew his phone call with the Russian ambassador involved no wrongdoing and, in fact, was related to his duties as National Security Advisor.
We also know now, three years later, after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation and Inspector-General Horowitz’s independent investigation, that there never was any good faith basis on which to begin any investigation of anyone connected to President Trump for collusion with Russia. There was no “there there.” No grounds ever existed for the initiation of Crossfire Hurricane or any of its subordinate investigations like Crossfire Razor.
And, yet, FBI agents, at the direction of FBI Director Comey and as part of an investigation held open only because of intervention by the most senior levels of the Bureau went into the White House on January 24, 2017, with the objective of, one way or the other, deposing the President’s National Security Advisor and doing significant damage to the new Administration.
This was not a criminal investigation. This was not a search for the truth.
This was a deliberate attack on the new President and one of his key personnel. These were not the actions of individuals fulfilling their obligation to defend the republic. These were the actions of men who had lost their way and gone from defending this great nation to attempting to control it. Like the Praetorians before them, they no longer believed it was their job to serve. It was their job to rule.
Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are filled overwhelmingly with dedicated, selfless individuals who work hard, often dangerous jobs in order that their fellow citizens can sleep well in their beds at night. At the most senior levels of these organizations, though, are individuals who have lost their way, become politicized and now care more about wielding power in our own capital than protecting us from threats emanating from abroad.
This republic cannot long endure if this abuse of power is allowed to stand. In A.D. 312 Emperor Constantine ultimately decided that the Praetorians had become such a threat to Rome that they must be disbanded, and their headquarters destroyed.
We must summon the same resolve or consign ourselves to a future in which the Praetorians decide for themselves who will rule.