To some of President Donald Trump’s defenders, Admiral Mike Rogers, the recently retired NSA Director, is poised to blow the whistle on a purported deep state conspiracy against Mr. Trump. Mr. Rogers’ elevation as a folk hero among the pro-Trump conspiracy community has its roots in a visit he made to Trump Tower in November 2016, as then President-elect Trump was preparing to take office. According to a Washington Post report, the incident rankled his superiors in the Obama Administration, several of whom were already seeking his removal as NSA Director.
“In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower,” the Post reported.”That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters.”
Just a month earlier, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., had recommended to President Barack Obama that Mr. Rogers be relieved of his post. Mr. Carter, according to the report was frustrated with Admiral Rogers’ performance leading the agency, while Mr. Clapper sought to restructure the NSA under civilian leadership. Ultimately, Mr. Obama elected to keep Mr. Rogers in his post. Still, his rocky relationship with Mr. Carter and especially Mr. Clapper are a mark of credibility with those who believe Mr. Trump is the victim of a “deep state” plot.
At the time, Mr. Rogers was being considered by President-elect Trump to replace Mr. Clapper as director of national intelligence, which seems a plausible-enough reason to call on Mr. Trump without telling his bosses in the outgoing administration. But, some of Mr. Trump’s defenders see a more exotic explanation. They believe that Mr. Rogers was there to warn Mr. Trump that Mr. Obama and his lieutenants were spying on him — a claim that every U.S. intelligence official, including Mr. Rogers, has refuted.
In Congressional testimony last spring, Mr. Rogers disputed Mr. Trump’s claim that Mr. Obama ordered his “‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
“I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we have engaged in such activity, nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity,” Mr. Rogers told the House Intelligence Committee.
This is not the only occasion in which Mr. Rogers has refuted theories popular among Mr. Trump’s defenders. At that same hearing, Mr. Rogers also shot down a related theory floated by a Fox News personality and subsequently echoed by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, that Mr. Obama had enlisted GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent to the NSA, to spy on the Trump’s campaign. When asked by Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking democrat if he made such a request to his British counterparts, Mr. Rogers shot back, “No sir. Nor would I. That would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that has been in place for decades.”
Mr. Rogers also reportedly refused a request from Mr. Trump, made soon after James Comey, the former FBI director confirmed that the Bureau was investigating potential ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, to publicly state that there was no evidence of collusion. When asked about this in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last year, Rogers sidestepped the question.
When pressed, by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) whether he had ever “been asked by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation, Mr. Rogers refused to deny it. “I’m not going to discuss the specifics of discussions with the president of the United States,” Rogers said.
But, several weeks later, Mr. Rogers reportedly told the Committee in a closed-door session that Mr. Trump had indeed urged him to publicly say that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia. While Mr. Rogers thought the interaction odd enough that Richard Leggett, his deputy, documented it in a memo, Mr. Rogers maintained that he did not take the request as an order to do anything improper.
Earlier this year, Rogers testified to Congress — with evident frustration — that he had been granted no additional authority by Mr. Trump to combat potential Russian interference in the midterm elections.
“What I see on the Cyber Command side leads me to believe that if we don’t change the dynamic here, that this is going to continue, and 2016 won’t be viewed as isolated,” Rogers said. “This is something that will be sustained over time.”
He said of Russian interference: “We’re taking steps, but we’re probably not doing enough.” He said that sanctions and other measures haven’t “changed the calculus or the behavior” by Moscow. “They haven’t paid a price at least that’s sufficient to get them to change their behavior,” he added.
When asked whether he had been instructed by the White House to do more to stop Russian meddling, Rogers said, he had not. While he had taken additional within his pursue, “I haven’t been granted any, you know, additional authorities, capacity and capability, and — no, that’s certainly true.”
Mike Rogers retired earlier this year. He’s now a private citizen and free to say whatever he pleases. If there was a “deep state” plot to undermine Trump, surely he’d be anxious to expose it. Yet he has yet to do so. We might ask, why? The most obvious explanation is that he simply does not believe such a plot exists.
Mr. Rogers’ pro-Trump fans might argue that he fears that no media outlet would report on such an allegation sympathetically. To that, I say, Admiral Rogers, if you’re listening, Roughly Explained will print your story in full unabridged form anytime. I eagerly await your call, but I don’t expect that it will ever come. So much so that if it turns out that Mr. Rogers publicly declares that the Russia investigation a hoax, a witch hunt, or a deep state conspiracy I will eat these words — literally, I will print out a copy of this post and eat it. Thus far, Mr. Rogers has given little reason to fear that I will be forced to make good on that wager.