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Friday, March 16, 2018

Paranoia, purges and threats

by digby

Joe McCarthy and Trump's mentor Roy Cohn

This is some fascist stuff here and I'm not kidding:
Two months into the Trump administration, a distraught State Department Iran expert named Sahar Nowrouzzadeh asked her new boss for help.

A conservative website had published an article depicting Nowrouzzadeh as a Barack Obama loyalist who had “burrowed into the government” under Trump and even had ties to the hated Iranian regime itself. Focusing on her role in the negotiation of Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, the article was headlined, “Iran deal architect is running Tehran policy at the State Dept.”

Nowrouzzadeh emailed Brian Hook, the new chief of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, where she worked on Middle East issues, to insist that the article was “filled with misinformation.” She assured Hook that, since joining the government under George W. Bush in 2005, she had always “adapted” to shifting U.S. policy priorities — as any career government staffer is expected to do. She asked for his help in correcting the record.

Hook was already well aware of the story. The article, which appeared in an obscure online publication called Conservative Review, had caused a stir among conservative activists and incoming Trump officials who were busy trying to establish who Nowrouzzadeh was — and whether she could be purged.

According to emails obtained by POLITICO, the agitators included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who sent the article to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s chief of staff, and a Trump official who told top Tillerson aides that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran” — she was not — and that she had wept after Trump’s election.

The emails show that State Department and White House officials repeatedly shared such misleading information about Nowrouzzadeh, deriding her as an Obama cheerleader and strong advocate for the nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump had repeatedly denounced. Later, after Nowrouzzadeh was reassigned to another job, some State Department officials tried to mislead a POLITICO reporter about whether she’d completed her full tenure in Hook’s policy shop.

The exchanges provide a window into the intense suspicion — critics call it paranoia — of senior Trump officials toward the employees they inherited upon taking over the government, especially in the realms of foreign policy and national security. In one email, a staffer was described as “a leaker and a troublemaker,” while another was branded a “turncoat.”

This is reminiscent of earlier McCarthyist accusations that the State Department was riddled with communists. I think it comes from their fundamental xenophobia and mistrust of people whose job it is to speak to foreigners.

In this case there is also the basic stupidity of Trump and the people around him and the ease with which they are manipulated by actors with agendas:

Although career staffers generally observe an ethos of nonpartisanship, many Trump officials saw them as constituting a “deep state” cabal determined to sabotage the new president’s agenda. The emails also suggest that Nowrouzzadeh may have been targeted in part because of her ethnicity, which would be a violation of federal employment law.

The emails were the subject of a Thursday letter to the White House and State Department from Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel, the top Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, respectively. The letter calls the emails, provided to Congress by an unnamed whistleblower, “extremely disturbing” and demands further documents from the Trump administration.

In the early months of Trump’s presidency, conservative media organizations such as Breitbart News and the Conservative Review published several stories singling out career civil and foreign service staffers by name. The reports often called such employees “Obama holdovers” — even though many, like Nowrouzzadeh, joined the government well before Obama took office — and urged their firing. The stories were terrifying to career employees who, in some cases, had spent decades working out of the spotlight. Nowrouzzadeh, who would not comment for this article, told Hook that she feared for her safety.

And yes, they are also thugs.

This adds up to a fascist bent that is becoming normalized. This story didn't even cause a ripple and yet it's actually very horrifying.