Last night Rachel Maddow used her MSNBC show to do what she does best. She assembled the available evidence when it comes to Donald Trump’s endless government shutdown, and she came up with a premise that we simply haven’t been hearing elsewhere. She pointed out that FBI agents aren’t getting paid, and the longer it drags on, the more likely the agents are to run into the kind of financial trouble that could end their careers. Here’s the thing.
Over the past year-plus, Donald Trump has consistently and almost obsessively attacked the FBI in dishonest fashion. He illegally fired FBI Director James Comey. He targeted a hit list of top FBI officials by publicly spinning phony and/or exaggerated scandals about them. It was fairly clear that this was an attempt at preventing the FBI from exposing his crimes, or a belated attempt at getting revenge on the FBI, or both.
Maddow pointed out that Donald Trump’s government shutdown is now putting the entirety of the FBI at risk on a fundamental level. Agents and officials are required to have good credit ratings and financial histories, so they’re not ripe for blackmail. If the shutdown ruins large chunks of the FBI financially, it could cripple the bureau’s ability to function going forward. But two key points come to mind.
First, the FBI only handles investigations. When it comes to Donald Trump’s criminal scandals, the investigative phase is over. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is deep into the prosecution phase. even if Trump were able to wipe the FBI off the map at this late date, it would do nothing to save Trump from being taken down. So if the shutdown is about harming the FBI, it’s a mere matter of Trump trying to take the bureau down with him.
Second, it’s worth keeping in mind that Donald Trump had already committed himself to keeping the government open with no funding for his wall, before the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter threatened mutiny at the last moment. So if Trump is now keeping the government shut down in order to harm the FBI, it wasn’t his original plan, and is merely something he’s come up with along the way.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report