Upon a white horse rides Donald Trump, man of destiny, determined to recapture the White House and, from there, to purge the deep state. “The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the Deep Staters and put America First,” the twice-indicted GOP front-runner declares in a video on his campaign website. His terrible swift sword is necessary to avert the “nuclear Armageddon” he sees the Ukraine war slouching toward.
This is part of the animating premise of Trump’s 2024 campaign to consolidate dictatorial power within the White House. Through dubious assertions of presidential authority and the removal of civil service protections, Trump intends to “identify the pockets of independence” within the executive branch “and seize them,” his former budget director Russell T. Vought told The New York Times in mid-July.
But Trump’s rhetoric is not just the revenge fantasy of someone under multiple indictments, nor is it merely a cynical harnessing of right-wing bloodthirst. As president, Trump didn’t have a problem with the existence of a so-called deep state; his problem was a deep state he didn’t control.