President Donald Trump and his allies have blamed agents of the alleged “deep state,” for the string of leaks and whistleblowers that have resulted in the current impeachment inquiry. In their telling, unelected government officials employed in national intelligence organizations such as the FBI, CIA, and NSA, have conspired against the president.
However, the Trump impeachment scandal was not the first instance in which the “deep state” played a significant role in the attempted impeachment of a Republican president. The impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon, and his eventual resignation in order to avoid a full House vote was heavily influenced by operatives of the deep state.
Besides the now infamous Deep Throat, the Watergate scandal and subsequent impeachment proceedings were heavily influenced by inside information on the Nixon administration obtained by officials for other government agencies.
Like the Trump administration, the Nixon White House was rife with leakers. In fact, almost every subsection of the Nixon White House was infiltrated by operatives from other agencies. (RELATED:Trump Issues Executive Orders Designed To Deconstruct The Deep State While Dems Focus On Impeachment)
Not only did leakers within the Nixon administration provide information that would prove vital to the impeachment proceedings against him but their presence caused many of the behaviors that would land Nixon in hot water after the Watergate scandal broke.
Nixon’s concern about deep state operatives and leakers inside the White House began after the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Daniel Ellsberg leaked thousands of documents on the Johnson administration’s conduct of the Vietnam War to the New York Times. The Papers revealed that Lyndon Johnson and other White House officials had deliberately misled Congress about the progress of the war.
Nixon, though at first content that the Papers showed the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in a negative light rather than his own, was convinced to try to limit the publication of the Papers. The Nixon administration had the Plumbers then try to obtain material from Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in an attempt to discredit the leaker.
The Plumbers, Nixon’s covert White House Special Investigations Unit, was originally formed to stop leaks like the Pentagon Papers from getting to the media. Former employees of the Plumbers remained employed by the White House and participated in the Watergate break-in.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff implanted moles in the White House because of their frustration with the secrecy with which Nixon made decisions about the Vietnam War, and they utilized the Joint Chiefs of Staff-National Security Council liaison office (JSC-NSC) to gain information on Nixon’s strategic plans covertly. (RELATED: Nikki Haley Goes After Deep State During AEI Event In DC)
The Plumbers plugged the leak in the JSC-NSC in 1971 after they discovered that Charles Radford, an employee at the office, had stolen over 5,000 classified documents from National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and gave them to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, infamous for collecting sensitive information on those he deemed enemies, also had Attorney General John Mitchell’s conversations with FBI officials recorded and delivered to Hoover himself.
The CIA also took the opportunity to keep tabs on Nixon and the White House staff. The CIA National Security Council liaison swore in an affidavit that E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent who helped organize and plan the Watergate break-in, regularly sent packets of information to CIA Director Richard Helms containing gossip about various White House officials. Additionally, in 1975, the CIA inspector general reported that CIA operatives had been embedded in “intimate components of the Office of the President,” during the Nixon administration.
In fact, one of the ex-Plumbers involved in the Watergate break-in was on the payroll of the CIA. Eugenio Martinez, an anti-Castro Cuban expatriate, had been sending reports on the Plumbers’ activities to his CIA handler in the months preceding the break-in.
Mark Felt, better known by his alias “Deep Throat,” is the most famous “deep state” operative at work during the Watergate scandal. Felt’s inside information proved vital to the series of articles written by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that exposed the Nixon administration’s involvement in the Watergate break-in.
Trump has expressed similar concerns about leaks, even going so far as to not inform members of Congress about the raid that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi because of the fear of leaks. The call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which kicked off the current impeachment inquiry against the president, was also initially placed on a top-secret computer system in the White House because of fears of leaks, according to Timothy Morrison, the senior director for European affairs at both the White House and the National Security Council.
The anonymous whistleblower within the Trump administration who accused Trump of seeking Ukrainian aid in gaining an advantage in the 2020 election has received praise from members of the intelligence community, furthering the theory that the “deep state” wishes to oust Trump from office.
Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin praised both the whistleblower and the “deep state,” at a CNN event in which former members of the intelligence community discussed the role of the intelligence community in the 2020 election, saying, “Thank god for the ‘deep state.’” (RELATED: The Deep State Isn’t So Deep Anymore — Here Are All The Former CIA Officials Now In Congress Or The Media)
Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe also attended the event. At the event, McCabe refused to answer which parts of the Steele dossier, which was created by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele at the behest of Democrats and alleged that the Trump associates took part in a conspiracy to collude with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, were verified by the FBI before the agency used it to justify spying on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. “I will not go into specificity about what the FBI verified prior to the FISA or after,” McCabe said when asked what was verified in the dossier before it was used.
Numerous Trump officials, including Fiona Hill and Michael McKinley, have either become whistleblowers and leaked information to the press or resigned in protest of Trump’s policies. Like the Nixon administration, the Trump administration has had to deal with numerous leaks from offices inside the administration and endure repeated infiltrations by intelligence agencies.