According to some accounts, the “deep state” is just another conspiracy theory.  If by “deep state” you mean unelected and unaccountable officials in government and intelligence agencies who operate in secret, then, yes, the existence of the deep state is a bit hard to prove.  In another sense of the term, however, the deep state is an obvious—and troubling—fact.

The president, his cabinet, the Congress, and the Supreme Court are but the tip of a very deep iceberg.  Below them is a huge network of bureaucracies and civil servants.  The federal government, as we often hear, is the largest employer in America.

But who, exactly, does this army of civil servants serve?  They’re supposed to serve the American people, but too often, it seems, they put party loyalty above people loyalty.

What party is that?  Here’s a clue:  of the $2 million that was donated to the recent presidential campaign by federal employees working in 14 agencies, 95 percent went to Hilary Clinton.  As might be expected, State Department employees donated a large chunk—99 %–of their money to Clinton.  But Department of Agriculture employees also contributed 99 % to Clinton.  So did Department of Education employees (99.7 %) and Department of Labor employees (99.4 %).  Department of Justice workers contributed 97 % and IRS employees gave 94 %. So when the State Department winks at Clinton’s use of her private server to handle classified information, it’s not necessary to resort to conspiracy theories to explain why.  And when the Justice Department exonerates Clinton of any wrong doing, there’s no mystery as to why.  The people who make these decisions, and the lower-level people who back them up are all Clintonites—that is to say, left-leaning Democrats.  They don’t take their cues from the American people or from the Constitution; they do what the Democrat Party wants them to do.

By any reading of the statute, Clinton clearly violated the Espionage Act—not once, but thousands of times.  Her actions unquestionably compromised national security since foreign powers undoubtedly were able to access her communications.  Nevertheless, for the deep-state Democrats party loyalty trumped national security.

But how about the security agencies themselves?  If the movies are to be believed, the military top brass are all rock-ribbed conservatives.  Yet Defense Department employees contributed 84 % of their money to Clinton, and Homeland Security workers donated 90 %.  The figures suggest that the people in charge of our nation’s security are mostly rock-ribbed Democrats.

This may explain why President Trump is having a difficult time with some of his security appointments.  General H.R. Mc Master, his choice to replace Lt. General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor, subscribes to the Obama-era fantasy that terror has nothing to do with Islam.  And General James Mattis, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Defense, seems to be picking his own appointees from Hillary’s discarded wish-list.

Mattis’ choice of Anne Patterson for undersecretary of defense for policy—the fourth most powerful position in the Pentagon—is particularly disturbing.  During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Patterson was Ambassador to Egypt.  She was also an ardent supporter of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Even after General El-Sisi turned the Brotherhood out of power, she lobbied to have them reinstated.  According to Raymond Ibrahim, she was widely known in Egypt as the “Brotherhood stooge,” and “was arguably one of the most hated individuals by the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets against Morsi and the Brotherhood.”  One senior Republican foreign policy advisor told the Washington Free Beacon:

Anne Patterson is the embodiment of the Obama administration’s failed approach to the Middle East… it’s beyond irresponsible to put her in charge of the Pentagon’s policy apparatus.

Mattis has since withdrawn Patterson’s name under pressure from the White House.  But why did he pick her in the first place?  Some say that the appointments of Mc Master and Mattis was just poor judgement on the part of Trump and his advisors.  But there may be another possibility.  It may be that there aren’t that many good people to choose from—candidates who are not only competent, but would also have a chance of being confirmed by the Senate without long delay.  The fact that Mattis was quickly confirmed suggests that the Democrats were not uncomfortable with his policy views.

By all accounts, Mattis is extremely competent in many areas, but could he have been steeped too long in the culture of Obama’s pentagon?  Was he surrounded by people who couldn’t see a problem with Anne Patterson and the Muslim Brotherhood? It is well known that during his eight year tenure Obama removed several hundred Generals and Admirals and replaced them with people who would go along with his anti-win policy.  While Obama was gutting the Pentagon’s budget, he was also busy weeding out all those rock-ribbed types.

Whatever the case may be with Mattis, too many government agencies are top-heavy with liberals. That will make it extremely difficult for the new administration to make a fresh start. The deep state is filled with holdovers from the Obama administration who are committed to the failed policies of the Obama years.  A prime example is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh. She formerly worked for the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) which is a lobbying group for the Islamic Republic of Iran.  She also served as the Iran Director for President Obama’s National Security Council, and she has been described as one of the architects of the suicidal Iran nuclear deal.  One would think that the new administration would want to cut her out of the loop.  Yet she is currently in charge of Iran policy for the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff—a position she was appointed to in 2016.  Recently, a high-ranking official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps boasted about a “guerrilla movement” of Iranian agents living and working in the United States.  But with people like Nowrouzzadeh working at State, they need hardly have bothered.

And then there’s the judiciary.  Although federal judges might be expected to keep the deep state in check, some of them act less like independent judges and more like government functionaries who can be relied on to rally around the agenda of the party that brought them to power.  A case in point is Judge Derrick Kahala Watson who was appointed as a U.S district court judge in Honolulu by fellow Hawaiian and Harvard Law classmate Barack Obama.  Judge Watson issued a restraining order against President Trump’s temporary travel ban, not on any legal grounds, but on the grounds that during the campaign, Trump had used heated rhetoric when speaking of Muslims.

This too is a matter of National Security.  The purpose of the travel ban is to protect Americans from radical Islam, but the radical judiciary seem determined to put Americans at risk for the sake of their leftist ideology.  And, make no mistake, this is a matter of ideology, not law.  The law is solidly on the side of the president who is empowered by 8 U.S. Code, 1182 to “suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants” whose entry “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”  But the lawyer left is not interested in the law.  As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy writes, “there is no way of crafting an order restricting immigration from Muslim countries that will satisfy them.”  But what then?  If the judges will not follow the law, and if the bureaucratic holdovers from the Obama administration are more loyal to him than to the Constitution, then we are headed for a dangerous confrontation.  By its very nature such a confrontation will be difficult to resolve through courts.  It’s easy to envision situations in which one law enforcement body following orders from a court faces off against another law enforcement agency following orders from the President.

And then there’s the question of just how much power the President has over the deep state.  It may well be, as columnist Daniel Greenfield suggests, that Obama controls more of the government through his network of embedded loyalists than does Trump.  As Mark Steyn puts it, “you don’t need a presidency for life, if you’ve got a bureaucracy for life.”

But why would leftist actors in the deep state risk such a dangerous encounter?  Perhaps because they’re fairly confident they would win it.  In addition to all their allies in the government and in the courts, they can count on the support of the universities and the support of all those students and former students who have been conditioned to believe that they need not follow any laws they don’t like.  In addition, they can count on a network of leftist nonprofits such as Obama’s Organizing for Action (OFA) which has 33,000 volunteers and 250 offices across the country.

Most of all, the deep state can count on the “fourth estate”—the press—to cover for them and to slant the news in the desired direction.  If, as some contend, we are in the midst of a “quiet coup” by a shadow government, you can be sure that the media will do its best to keep it quiet.  And, if that is not possible, to justify it.

Those who think that Trump’s electoral victory will surely result in a safer and more secure America haven’t come to grips with the deep state’s capacity to stir up deep trouble.

An abridged version of this article originally appeared in the March 24, 2017 edition of The Stream.