“Unprecedented”: 9 historians on why Trump’s war with the FBI is so stunning

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tags: FBI, Trump, Nunes

Douglas M. Charles, professor of history, Penn State University

Regarding the current antagonism between the White House and FBI, there is no good historical precedent. Never has a president of the United States attacked the FBI so publicly. Furthermore, congressional committees with oversight responsibilities have also never openly attacked the FBI in this way.

In the J. Edgar Hoover days (1924-1972), the FBI worked in some cases to advance the political interests of the White House: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s foreign policy interests, Eisenhower’s anti-communist interests, Lyndon Johnson’s and Nixon’s political intelligence interests. 

When Harry Truman was president and allegedly was “soft on communism,” FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover secretly worked with congressional committees and Sen. Joe McCarthy to advance the anti-communist cause, but there was never a public rift between the FBI and the White House. 

The idea that a president would so publicly condemn the FBI and its work is unprecedented, and does appear to be an effort to pull the FBI back into the presidential orbit as an agency doing its bidding....

Carol Anderson, professor of history and African-American studies, Emory University

Yes, the independence of the FBI is under siege. Bringing an independent judiciary and investigative branch under the domination of the executive is one of the first moves of regimes that do not respect the rule of law. Pinochet’s Chile. Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia. 

The rationale is simple. Besides the military, the judiciary and law enforcement branches are the most powerful in a state. Control and politicization of that wing allows the ruler to criminalize his opponents, to label them enemies of the state, when in fact those so-called enemies are really defenders of a more viable, democratic nation. That is why they are a threat.

Read entire article at Vox

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