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Revised and updated
"One of today’s most respected journalists, David Rohde takes on one of the country’s most toxic conspiracy theories," presenting a "scrupulously reported and even-handed" account of how power and intelligence are exploited in Washington that “goes deep indeed inside America’s security state, telling a story that will surprise readers of all political persuasions” (Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money).
Donald Trump blamed his 2020 defeat on Democrats and the “deep state”—a supposed secret cabal of Washington insiders that relentlessly encroaches on the individual rights of Americans—for stealing the election and undermining his presidency. Most Americans who supported him agreed. Americans on the left increasingly fear the “military-industrial complex,” a faction of generals and defense contractors who they believe routinely push the country into endless wars. But does the American “deep state” really exist?
This question is fundamental to preserving the legitimacy of American democracy, as frustration with and distrust for the government continue to grow. In Deep seeks to dispel these pernicious myths through an examination of the FBI, CIA, and Justice Department scandals of the past fifty years from the Church Committee’s exposure of Cold War abuses to the claims and counterclaims of the Trump era and the relentless spread of conspiracy theories online and on air. It exposes the misconduct of Attorney General William Barr; how distrust of the “deep state” undermined the US government response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and the growing discord sowed by the explosion of false information online. It investigates Trump’s quest to discredit government experts, the legislative and judicial branches, and the results of the 2020 election and assume authoritarian power for himself. “The idea of the deep state, Rohde writes, is inextricably linked to a particular view of presidential power” (Dina Temple-Raston, Washington Post).
Based on dozens of interviews with career CIA operatives and FBI agents, “In Deep is a wholly satisfying read and a necessary one for anyone wanting to understand the forces at play in our government today” (Andrea Bernstein, Peabody Award–winning cohost of the Trump, Inc. podcast and author of American Oligarchs).
Pulitzer Prize winner Rohde (Beyond War) delivers an illuminating history of the often tense relationship between U.S. presidents and the career civil servants who enact or, by some accounts, thwart their policies. Starting with the Church committee's 1976 report documenting "decades of illegal FBI and CIA spying on American citizens," Rohde delves into every presidential administration from Gerald Ford through Barack Obama, sketching the Iran-Contra affair, illegal Chinese donations to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign, and the post-9/11 Patriot Act. The book's second half focuses on developments during the Trump era: the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the impeachment inquiry and trial. Concluding that there is no "widespread, politically motivated coup' " to remove Trump from office, Rohde argues that "the rising call for a more powerful presidency" voiced most loudly by conservative figures including attorney general William Barr threatens proper oversight of the FBI and the CIA by throwing the balance of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches out of whack. Rohde weaves impeccable research, including interviews with current and former White House and law enforcement officials, into a cohesive and revelatory narrative. Political junkies and generalists alike will relish this deeply informed account.