In year 41 C.E., it was disgust and hostility of a praetorian tribune, named Cassius Chaerea – whom Caligula teased without mercy due to his squeaky voice – which led to the assassination of the emperor by officers of the guard. Source.
Proclaiming Claudius Emperor, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, oil on canvas, 1867. According to one version of the story of Claudius’ accession, members of the Praetorian Guard found him hiding behind a curtain in the aftermath of the assassination of Caligula in AD 41, and proclaimed him emperor. (Ibid.)
What am I talking about? Does this have something to do with Donald Trump?
I don’t know. And yes. I suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome, so almost everything I say has something to do with Trump. Bear with me.
The Praetorian Guard started out well enough. But if you were paying attention in class, you know that eventually, as disdain for the emperors the Praetorians served grew, they took matters into their own hands. It did not end well for the various emperors whom they picked and discarded. Or ultimately for the Guard, which was disbanded by Constantine.
The Secret Service, the FBI and the CIA are modern Praetorians, in the best sense of the word. They guard the President, and the country.
Without carrying this analogy too far, I nevertheless think we have come to rely on this trio of agencies. If you don’t believe me, read Garrett M. Graff’s excellent The Threat Matrix.
Since J. Edgar Hoover took over the Bureau in the late 1920s, the FBI had led the nation’s defense, blocking and tackling an ever-evolving set of criminals and evildoers who sought to harm the United States. For seven decades, we have turned to the FBI to protect us from that which we fear the most. The forms our fears have taken have dictated their ever-changing set of priorities, requiring a constantly changing set of skills and specialties.
The point of the analogy is simply that, like Roman emperors, American presidents mess with the FBI at their peril. The people of the agency, and the rest of the “Deep State,” are immensely loyal, but their loyalty to the President is not greater than their loyalty to their country. If they come to think that the President is selling the country down the river, or betraying it to its enemies, they will act on their own. They will go rogue. Trump needs no better example than Deep Throat, a senior FBI official, whose leaks did more to bring down Richard Nixon than any other action in that drama.
Much more than even Nixon or Caligula, Trump has treated the FBI and the other agencies with contempt. It is entirely possible that the feeling is reciprocated.
WOW, @foxandfrlends “Dossier is bogus. Clinton Campaign, DNC funded Dossier. FBI CANNOT (after all of this time) VERIFY CLAIMS IN DOSSIER OF RUSSIA/TRUMP COLLUSION. FBI TAINTED.” And they used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2017
One interesting side effect seems to be that the FBI, or at least its agents, is getting popular with the citizenry. Maybe that has nothing to do with Trump’s attacks, but I don’t believe in coincidences.
The President is impugning the integrity of the FBI by attacking two honorable public servants: Jim Baker and Andy McCabe. I just donated $1,000 to the @FBIAgentsAssoc in their names. I urge others to give as well and tweet that you did so to #thanksFBI. https://t.co/dim8LH3Ns3 pic.twitter.com/Kje8iEsZPu
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) December 23, 2017
How will Trump’s attack on the FBI end? My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is badly for Trump. Not that the Agency’s people have not stumbled, they have. Former Director James Comey certainly did. So did the star-crossed lovers who decided texting each other on government phones was a good idea. But in the end, Trump cannot stop the FBI. Nixon couldn’t either, even when he enlisted the help of the CIA.
If you break the law, the chances are good the G-men will get you.