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Who's the Fake?

The fight for the control of Washington, after a ton of preliminaries and battlespace preparation, is now underway in earnest.  As Robert Mueller seeks a path toward linking Donald Trump to collusion with the Russian government, the president is trying to frame the investigation as a conspiracy hatched by the former administration's intelligence bosses and secret policemen.  It's a clash between the irresistible force and the immovable object.

The start of this war can be dated to January 5, 2017 according to Andrew McCarthy's research.  At this meeting the outgoing president made key decisions on how to investigate his successor without letting him know.  "During the meeting, Rice’s memo said, then-President Barack Obama suggested intelligence officials be cautious about sharing information about the Russia investigation with the Trump transition team, 'particularly' incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn. By that time, multiple senior members of the campaign had been in contact with high-ranking Russians, including Flynn, incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and senior adviser Jared Kushner." McCarthy describes the fatal moment when, rightly or wrongly, Obama moved against Trump.

Now, you can believe that the Obama administration’s motives were political, that the Trump-Russia collusion narrative was mainly a Democratic-party concoction to rationalize Hillary Clinton’s defeat and cripple Trump’s fledgling administration. Or you can believe that Obama officials, altruistically motivated to protect national security, were convinced that Trump was in cahoots with the Kremlin, and they were desperately trying to prove it. Either way, though, the challenge for Obama’s team was to keep the investigation going even after Trump took office.

The solution was to lie to Trump, who nevertheless discovered that despite soothing assurances that he was not the target of the investigation, he was in fact the primary subject of the investigation.  From that moment the battle was joined. The struggle, which can only grow in intensity, will undoubtedly leave a trail of institutional destruction affecting the press, the presidency and the FBI to name only some.  While the political war is sure to thin out the "swamp" creatures on both sides it will also impair or paralyze government agencies whose quick response may be needed in an emergency.

But more importantly the crisis is taking Washington into terra incognita.  The imputation of the current scandals is that either the current POTUS or his predecessor might be a traitor or a criminal.  It is danger from the very top where a malevolent predecessor could use his holdover appointees to frame the new incumbent or a malicious incumbent could pack the agencies with new operatives to gradually gain authoritarian control of government.  In both cases a conspirator has a path to success.

While there are well established procedures for dealing with lower-ranking traitors like Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen, there is no easy bureaucratic method of resolving a scenario where the malefactors are so highly placed. However Constitution is able to solve such a problem in theory.  To understand this feaature consider the the Byzantine General's Scenario, a thought experiment first formulated in 1982 by Lamport, Shostak and Pease of Microsoft to examine the problem of reaching a valid consensus in a system where one more possible traitors may be present. It was designed to resolve a situation in which distributed computing systems received conflicting or faulty signals recommending contradictory actions.  But it works equally well at illuminating the problem of political treachery.