The Deep State From Inside Out
Rich Higgins' new memoir reveals just how murky is the swamp.
“The Trump administration is suffering under withering information campaigns designed to first undermine, then delegitimize and ultimately remove the President,” so wrote National Security Council staffer Rich Higgins in a May 2017 memo that ultimately landed on President Trump’s desk. Although the NeverTrumpers in the NSC did not succeed in removing Trump, they did remove Higgins.
The Higgins memo reportedly distressed National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who had replaced Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in the position. McMaster ordered a probe that some described as “McCarthy-type” to identify the author. That search led to Higgins, a Flynn loyalist who had worked on the Trump campaign.
After his authorship was established, Higgins had to choose between resignation and termination, the latter coming with the potential loss of his security clearance. Higgins resigned and was promptly escorted out of the building.
An everyday guy from Boston, Higgins had started his career as an army bomb technician with a hands-on specialty in IEDs, worked his way up to become an anti-terrorism expert, and ended his stint in the Deep State as a national security expert in the Trump administration.
Here is one unnerving fact: Trump received only 4 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia. As Higgins tells the tale in his new eye-opening memoir, The Memo: 20 Years Inside the Deep State Fighting for America First, the staffers at the National Security Council were no more disposed to support the president’s agenda than were the District voters writ large.
Higgins tells his tale well. I downed the book in two quick gulps. It was that good, that readable, that prescient, and that essential. As closely as I follow events, before reading this book I had no real sense of just how deep and murky the swamp is.
Flynn was the one man with the power and the knowledge to stir the swamp. He represented a clear and present danger to the literally thousands of swamp dwellers who were making good money doing work that ranged from useless to counter-productive. The story of Flynn’s undoing is now well enough known. Higgins was not privy to the conspirators’ mechanics at the time, but he had a solid, up-close sense of their intent.
Like Flynn, Higgins is a straight-talking Irish New Englander who did not tailor his opinions to advance his career. If the Bush administration shied from even naming an enemy, preferring instead the inane “war against terror,” the Obama administration cozied up to that enemy. In Trump, Higgins found another straight talker not afraid to call a Muslim terrorist a Muslim terrorist.
Honesty did go down well in the swamp. An August 2017 article in Foreign Policy, the quintessential Deep State publication, nicely sums up the willful myopia that Higgins spent his career challenging:
The [Higgins] memo’s repeated references to the Muslim Brotherhood — which is grouped among “key international players that includes the European Union and the United Nations — surprised few inside the NSC familiar with what had been a Flynn obsession. “Oh look, it’s the newest member of the Muslim Brotherhood,” was a common joke among those critical of Flynn loyalists, and what they regarded as a conspiracy theory, a source close to the NSC said.
Having worked during the past year on a project with a fellow who knows the Muslim Brotherhood from the inside out, I can assure anyone who reads the Higgins book that he does not exaggerate the insidious nature of that organization.
Nor does Higgins exaggerate the fecklessness of McMaster. In late February 2017, according to the New York Times, McMaster told the staff of the National Security Council “that the label ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ was not helpful because terrorists are ‘un-Islamic,’ according to people who were in the meeting.”
The Times article was headlined, “H.R. McMaster Breaks With Administration on Views of Islam.” McMaster had been on the job less than a week, and he had already made friends at the Times. The reporters celebrated McMaster’s “sense of history and independent streak” and openly hoped he “might move the council away from the ideologically charged views of Mr. Flynn.”
“This is not politics as usual,” Higgins wrote in his memo, “but rather political warfare at an unprecedented level that is openly engaged in the direct targeting of a seated president through manipulation of the news cycle.” Those at the NSC manipulating the news did not want to hear this or let it be heard.
After McMasters forced Higgins out, Foreign Policy reported, “McMaster set out to clean house.” He purged those NSC staffers who were linked to the memo or perceived as loyal to Flynn and thus to Trump himself. All of this, including the dismissal of Higgins, McMaster did without telling the president.
“In the same way President Lincoln was surrounded by political opposition both inside and outside of his wire, in both overt and covert forms, so too is President Trump,” Higgins wrote in his memo. “Had Lincoln failed, so too would have the Republic.”
In a week we will find out whether the Republic prevails for another four years or the swamp surges anew. I am betting on the Republic.
Jack Cashill’s new book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency is now widely available. See www.cashill.com for more information.