No deep state in Trump’s second term

Trump supporters insist that Donald Trump will appoint nothing by but loyalists in his second term, no more “deep state” officials preventing Trump from achieving his desired policies. (But why didn’t Trump do that the first time around?)

Of course the deep state does not actually exist. But in the Trump administration there were normal government officials doing their job. One such example was Mark Esper:

Esper describes an administration completely overtaken by concerns about Trump’s reelection campaign, with every decision tethered to that objective. He writes that he could have resigned, and weighed the idea several times, but that he believed the president was surrounded by so many yes men and people whispering dangerous ideas to him that a loyalist would have been put in Esper’s place. The real act of service, he decided, was staying in his post to ensure that such things did not come to pass.

One such idea emerged from Trump, who was unhappy about the constant flow of drugs across the southern border, during summer 2020. Trump asked Esper at least twice if the military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs.”

“They don’t have control of their own country,” Esper recounts Trump saying.

When Esper raised various objections, Trump said that “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” adding that “no one would know it was us.” Trump said he would just say that the United States had not conducted the strike, Esper recounts, writing that he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Trump in the face.

There are several more such examples. Read the whole thing.

PS. People claimed I was engaging in hyperbole when I suggested that Trump had the mentality of a 4th grader. But the Patriot missile example Esper cites is exactly the sort of thinking you’d expect from a 4th grader.

PPS. One silver lining about living in a banana republic is that politics becomes a continual source of amusement:

Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas warned that the Court can’t be “bullied” in comments at a judicial conference in Atlanta on Friday.

“We are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like,” Thomas said, according to Reuters.

This from a man whose wife was part of the vast right wing conspiracy to overturn the 2020 elections, because she didn’t like the outcome. A man who failed to recuse himself from a case that involved his wife.



26 Responses to “No deep state in Trump’s second term”

  1. Gravatar of m m
    8. May 2022 at 12:00

    I think it’s like Supreme Court judges. The first several attempts to place conservative ones resulted in the 90s in many who did not rule as desired/expected. But people learned from these errors and their success rate of finding the right kind of justices went up over time.

    Anecdotally does seem that key appointees became more willing to conform over the course of the Trump admin. Tillerson to Pompeo, Sessions to Barr.

  2. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    8. May 2022 at 20:17


    I agree it is stupid to strike in Mexico without diplomatic groundwork to align with the government.. but are you saying that striking drug labs in another country is 4th grade thinking?

    I recall a book + movie: ‘Clear and Present Danger’ which very seriously presented the notion of the president ordering covert action against drug cartels. I similarly recall a recent fill series ‘Sicario’ presenting the same premise.

    I don’t recall anyone responding to those concepts as preposterous. Indeed it sounds like something quite plausible and probable to have taken place.

    BTW — if he said Patriot strikes that is kind of stupid as Patriot batteries are SAMs. If you are really quoting that accurately a well placed ‘sic’ would help make the point.

  3. Gravatar of RalMirrorAd RalMirrorAd
    9. May 2022 at 04:14

    Deep state just refers to those elements of the judiciary and administrative state that are largely unaffected by the outcome of elections. This is a bit tricky since in theory a lot of offices are appointed but at different times and different tenures. If they can’t be replaced with the same ease that a company’s CEO can replace managers. I think it’s Turkish in origin.

    The sinister connotation and Trump supporters’ tendency to want to blame his weak presidency on anyone other than him notwithstanding.

    This isn’t a true Boolean, if you want a federal bureaucracy completely protected from the likes of Trump then, in theory just have the administrative/judicial state operate on rails and the public gets to elect a mascot or spokesman. We might call that maximum deep state, or maybe a “Dora the Explorer democracy”.

    On the other end you get an elected CEO, the closest thing we had to something like that would be FDR.

    Of course to the extent the president gets to appoint people, the extent to which those appointees go off and do their own thing and ignore the president is the president’s fault. The extent to which he could theoretically replace them and decides not to is also his fault.

  4. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    9. May 2022 at 04:33

    Thomas is correct.

    Permitting the states to determine their abortion laws is incredibly trivial, but despite this mundane redistribution of power to the states, the marxist left has been radicalized into thinking that violence is the best way to resolve their political differences. Low and behold, the American youth – via identity politics – now resembles the intolerant Mao’s revolution.

    Determining when one has the legal right to life is an extraordinarly complicated issue, which should be left to the states and to the communities and their respective beliefs. But the left has always attempted to simplify this complicated issue with unrelated slogans and straw man arguments – slogans that avoid any mention of the right to life, and instead focus on the right of a women’s body which was never really the issue.

    Whichever side you agree with, the judges at the Supreme Court should not be the target of your uncontrollable rage. You should not be at their houses, like intolerant middle age religious zealots, with your pitch forks and torches. Their rulings are entrenched in a philosophical debate that few of today’s looney teens can even begin to grasp, mostly because they have no concept of the historical discussion.

    And packing the court, forcing judges to retire, choosing judges at a younger age – just so that you can get your way is incredibly totalitarian – it politicizes and diminishes the most sacred branch of government.

    The framers didn’t wake up one morning and create the substructure of goverance that you see before you. This constitution was the culmination of 2500 years of human progress; it was the apex of the enlightenment, all predicated upon establishing a republic that could survive past failures.

    The constitution specifically regulates most policies to the states, and over the past 50 years the left has tried very hard to strip states rights. But why? Why don’t they respect the balance of power? The only logical conclusion is that they seek power. Power over you, your family, your children, over every facet of your life.

  5. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    9. May 2022 at 04:50

    Apparently, Scott Sumner thinks illegal protests of Supreme Court justices’ homes and threats of violence to get them to vote the way Scott evidently wants them to vote on Roe v. Wade are A-okay.

    And we’re supposed to listen to Scott about what’s right and what’s wrong.

  6. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    9. May 2022 at 05:13


    “nothing by loyalists” was supposed to be “nothing but loyalists”?

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. May 2022 at 06:30

    Jon, LOL, are you actually claiming that a secret missile strike on Mexico is a non-insane policy?

    Sarah, The national GOP now say they want to strip states of the right to regulate abortion.

    Stan, Apparently, you have no sense of humor. And apparently, you are a mind reader.

    Todd, Thanks.

  8. Gravatar of steve steve
    9. May 2022 at 07:35

    OK, number one son does DoD computer work and was a physics/math major in undergrad but well before 4th grade he understood the concepts of velocity and trajectory. It would not have been possible for missile strikes and their origins to be kept secret.

    “Apparently, Scott Sumner thinks illegal protests of Supreme Court justices’ homes ”
    What is illegal? Protestors also have free speech rights. Pretty sure SCOTUS justices are not royalty. Note that this was the same Supreme Court that said it was unconstitutional to limit protestors at abortion clinics who wanted to show up and yell obscenities at clients.


  9. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    9. May 2022 at 07:49

    Scott —

    I guess “jokes” about an unprecedented onslaught on the USSC that has forced at least one justice to move to an undisclosed location aren’t my cup of tea. As for my “mind reading” abilities, the fact that you are an unabashed proponent of so-called “mercy” killing, and are completely results-oriented in your analyses of court decisions, are pretty good clues you like Roe v. Wade. But I did say “evidently” just in case my inference was incorrect.

  10. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    9. May 2022 at 08:01

    Steve —

    Protests targeting federal justices’ homes are a federal crime. You can read about it at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, a considerably more reliable source on legal matters than this one. If you don’t like the law, you can try to challenge it in court. But first you will have to get arrested for violating it, and so far the FBI doesn’t seem interested in enforcing it against pro-Roe v. Wade protesters.


  11. Gravatar of steve steve
    9. May 2022 at 08:34

    Did you read the update? It is not clear if it is illegal. Clearly this is a poor statute and needs to go. Americans are much too deferential to the political class and the political class is much too good at making sure they get special treatment.


  12. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    9. May 2022 at 09:23

    The update is the item in which Eugene Volokh notes that there is a federal statute barring protests at federal judges’ homes to influence how they will rule. He gives a substantive argument as to why he believes this statute is constitutional. My suspicion is you don’t like the statute right now because pro-abortion protestors are targeting the homes of justices who are believed to be part of an anti-Roe court majority. I am pretty confident you would not be saying it is a bad law if pro-life protesters were targeting Roberts’ home because there were apparently only four votes to overturn Roe. So I am not impressed by your unsupported assertion that the law “needs to go.”

  13. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    9. May 2022 at 09:28

    Deep State is a conspiracy-sounding term. But what it really refers to is the permanency of G11-G15 plus SES government employees. These are the people who essentially run the bureaucracy. About 1 out of 1000 at this level get fired—–and it is very difficult to do so. If they ever feel threatened, it should not be surprising they will resist.
    Imagine if private industry were run this way. And what party would these people most likely support? Obviously, it is the party whose ideology is one that favors more power to the government.

  14. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    9. May 2022 at 11:41

    @Michael R:

    There is no real difference between how each party favors more power to the government. One of them even thinks it’s ok to ignore election results.

    The small government parties are tiny (Libertarian, Constitution, etc)

  15. Gravatar of steve steve
    9. May 2022 at 12:42

    Stan- Nope. People have gone to the homes of politicians to protest abortion. As long as they arent violent and dont disrupt neighbors too much that is fine with me. Furthermore I think it total BS that SCOTUS is totally blocked off from protests, both for and against abortion. They are not royalty. Reading a few signs for or against abortion wont change anyone’s minds. The free speech rights of those who want to protest far outweigh their needs to not be inconvenienced. As I noted above it is total hypocrisy to say that we cant impinge on the free speech rights of people at an abortion clinic but its OK to do that at the court or someone’s home.


  16. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    9. May 2022 at 16:16

    Of course, the Supreme Court is not completely insulated from abortion protests. The federal law I have been talking about was not enacted with abortion in mind. You may sincerely oppose the law in a principled way. If so, I apologize for assuming otherwise. But you said the protests outside justices homes weren’t illegal. Unless and until the current law is overturned, they are. So you were wrong about that. The fact that you don’t like the law doesn’t matter much to me.

  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. May 2022 at 16:53

    Stan, Not sure if you are being a troll or just lack reading comprehension. Either way I’ll be sure to ignore your comments in the future.

  18. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    9. May 2022 at 22:34

    Scott writes:

    Jon, LOL, are you actually claiming that a secret missile strike on Mexico is a non-insane policy?

    I make no such blanket statement. If the Mexican government was aligned to covert action action against drug cartels, I would not call that policy per se insane.

    We clearly have many many manifestations of ‘war’ posture against drug cartels. I assume around the world today that includes military actions. It has in the past:

    The previously undisclosed CIA program was authorized by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and has continued under President Obama, according to U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and ongoing.

    The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.

    That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.

    In March 2008, according to nine U.S. and Colombian officials, the Colombian Air Force, with tacit U.S. approval, launched U.S.-made smart bombs across the border into Ecuador to kill a senior FARC leader, Raul Reyes. The indirect U.S. role in that attack has not been previously disclosed.

    In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations.

    Both of which describe actions during the Bush and Obama administrations which had been covert until an expose was published outing the activity.

    Scott — can you answer my original questions and be clearer about which aspects you find insane? To my ear the insane piece is an implication of not operating in concert with the Mexican government. Yet you seem to feel the idea of a missile strike is itself “insane”.

  19. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    10. May 2022 at 03:30


    Yes, both parties support big government——but one of them is more philosophically in favor of more spending and growth of government regulation.

    I am not aware of any party that is in favor of “ignoring election results”.

  20. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    10. May 2022 at 04:16

    Scott, I am perfectlu capable of reading, and I an no troll. I started reading your blog because I respected your views about monetary policy.

    So you were making a “joke” when you said Justice Thomas shouldn’t be offended by illegal protests and death threats aimed at intimidating the USSC because the justice and his wife are creeps?

    How is that funny?

  21. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    10. May 2022 at 11:00

    @Michael Rulle:

    Yes, the unawareness is expected.

  22. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    10. May 2022 at 11:01

    “vast right wing conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election”

    How could a leading expert in monetary economics be such a doofus, quoting the beloved Hillary lol.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. May 2022 at 19:46

    Michael, “I am not aware of any party that is in favor of “ignoring election results”.”

    Yes, you and Rip Van Winkle.

    Stan, “when you said Justice Thomas shouldn’t be offended by illegal protests and death threats”


    Brian, See my reply to Michael.

  24. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    10. May 2022 at 19:49

    I suppose one aspect of bananification is how it draw people in who really do know better into its vortex.

  25. Gravatar of Stan Greer Stan Greer
    11. May 2022 at 02:54

    Scott —

    “This from a man whose wife was part of the vast right wing conspiracy to overturn the 2020 elections, because she didn’t like the outcome. A man who failed to recuse himself from a case that involved his wife.”

    A normal person interprets “This from a man” here as meaning Thomas has no right to be offended. As in, “Scott Sumner accuses Trump-allied conservatives of contributing to America’s transition into a banana republic with their relentless false claims of systematic fraud in the 2020 elections. This from a man who thinks Clarence Thomas should be impeached for refusing to recuse himself in a case from which no serious legal specialist thinks he should have had recuse himself!” A reasonable person would interpret that as a claim you have no right to complain about Trumpian bids to overturn the 2020 elections.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. May 2022 at 09:08

    Dzhaughn, Exactly, look how it’s affected this blog!

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