It didn’t take me long to figure out the range of my personal powers as a professional journalist. As long as I worked for a serious and structured news operation, I could never expect to tell my bosses what I would do. I could engage them on what I thought I could do, or what I really, really wanted to do, but I had no power to determine the outcome of those engagements.
Where my power was strong, maybe even absolute, was over what I would not do.
There was, thank God, a wide assortment of assignments I was happy or at least willing to accept. But some things were unacceptable.
What is most discouraging about the 2020 election was what almost half of American voters were willing to accept. Not just Trump himself, every culture loves a brazen charlatan, but Trumpism – and its destructive attacks on the principles of the American Constitution and the institutions of American government. The millions who voted for Donald Trump cannot be accused of endorsing everything he did, just of saying, if his actions and his character are inextricable parts of his presidency, that’s acceptable.
One Trumpistic notion that seems to have taken a wide hold is the so-called “deep state,” the conspiracy theory based on a belief that a close-knit conspiracy of career bureaucrats (and their better-known political puppets) secretly control all of government, but most crucially the agencies of national security protection and law enforcement.
As president, Trump expected his security services to “yes-boss” every one of his egotistical pronouncements about a world he knows nothing about. On the other hand, he expected law enforcement – especially the Department of Justice and the FBI to kick the asses of his enemies and cover his own.
In fact, it was that last issue, FBI Director James Comey’s refusal to promise that protecting the presidential posterior would be his first professional priority, that got him fired. For our guest today, Josh Campbell, Comey’s dismissal must have felt like a personal kick in the butt. Comey had been his FBI boss and mentor. Campbell wrote about the FBI investigation that Comey wouldn’t stop, into Trump’s Russian connections, in a book called Crossfire Hurricane, and became an analyst and correspondent for CNN.
Josh Campbell is a CNN correspondent and law enforcement analyst, and author of the book Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI. Prior to joining the network, Campbell was a supervisory special agent with the FBI and served as special assistant to FBI director James Comey. His career included conducting high-profile terrorism and kidnapping investigations, serving overseas in multiple diplomatic and operational assignments, and managing the bureau’s interagency communication response strategy following crisis incidents. He received four FBI Combat Theater Awards for his work embedded with military special operations and CIA teams abroad. Campbell has an MA in communication from Johns Hopkins and a BA in government from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations and teaches national security at the University of Southern California.