The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The curiously Republican leaders of the supposed ‘deep state’ conspiracy against Trump

Then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, left, and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein sit alongside Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is increasingly in President Trump's crosshairs, and Trump's long-standing wish to get rid of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe finally came true Monday. The subject of his derision in both cases? The idea that they are both essentially Democrats.

Except they aren't, really.

But in that way, they fit a growing pattern: Almost every person who has stood atop the supposed “deep state” law-enforcement-led conspiracy against Trump just so happens to be either a Republican or tied to the same party Trump belongs to.

Rosenstein? A longtime registered Republican. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? He was a registered Republican when GOP President George W. Bush appointed him as FBI director, and he still was as of 2017. James B. Comey? A longtime registered Republican before testifying in 2016 that he no longer was. McCabe? As CNN reported recently, he voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

McCabe's case is a little more complex. Trump grilled him when he became acting FBI director last year (after Comey's dismissal) about whom he voted for in the 2016 presidential election and about his wife's Democratic campaign for Virginia state legislature. But while McCabe voted in the 2016 GOP primary, Virginia doesn't have party registration, and he doesn't appear to have voted in other primaries in recent years. So it's theoretically possible he chose the GOP primary because he wanted to vote against Trump. Still, if he were a Democratic-leaning voter, he'd have been missing out on that party's competitive primary.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein has been the target of President Trump's ire for months. Here's a look back at their history. (Video: Jenny Starrs, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The Rosenstein example, though, might be the most instructive. The Post reported last month that Trump has ranted about Rosenstein being “a Democrat” and a threat to his presidency. In a New York Times interview last summer, Trump expressed unhappiness with Rosenstein supposedly coming from heavily Democratic Baltimore. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” Trump said.

But basically none of that is accurate. Rosenstein is originally from Pennsylvania. He did serve as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland, where he was selected by Bush for a U.S. Court of Appeals judgeship in 2007. But that nomination was actually blocked by Maryland's Democratic senators because they felt Rosenstein didn't have enough Maryland “roots.” And Maryland records show he's been registered as a Republican in Montgomery County since 1998.

This is also somewhat the case with Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who was demoted for writing Trump-bashing text messages. While Strzok's comments in those texts were clearly and frequently anti-Trump, he also derided Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, former attorney general Eric Holder and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and even criticized Chelsea Clinton as “self-entitled.” He at one point mused that someone had guessed that he voted for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 presidential race. (He did not confirm whether he had, though, and the last Virginia primary in which he voted was the 2008 Democratic primary.)

None of this is to suggest that any of these men are incapable of anti-Trump bias simply because they may more closely align with the Republican Party; there are certainly plenty of Never Trump Republicans in the political establishment, and it's possible that's also the case in the law enforcement establishment.

But it is notable that the men behind this supposed deep-state conspiracy aren't obvious political foils for Trump and don't neatly fit into Trump's overly simplistic me-vs.-the Democrats dichotomy.

Alice Crites contributed to this report.