WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that there’s “no question” there are allies of former President Barack Obama who are “burrowed into government” and working to push a liberal “agenda.” Spicer’s comments came after Yahoo News asked if the White House believes there’s a “deep state” that is actively working to undermine President Trump.
“Well, I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office that there are people who stay in government … and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration,” Spicer said. “So, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone.”
The concept of the “deep state,” a shadowy network of staffers at military and intelligence agencies who work to influence the government, has increasingly become part of the conversation since Trump took office in January. Trump has repeatedly alleged that Obama ordered surveillance on his team during the campaign and suggested that the ex-president’s allies are to blame for leaks that have dogged his administration. While the White House has not used the term “deep state” publicly, according to the Washington Post, “many” presidential aides employ the phrase and chief strategist Steve Bannon has “spoken with Trump at length about his view that the ‘deep state’ is a direct threat to his presidency.” During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month, Bannon framed Trump’s administration as a fight for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Trump’s allies outside the White House have been far more direct about their concerns that the “deep state” is out to get the president. Breitbart, a conservative site formerly run by Bannon that is reportedly widely read in the White House, has published multiple articles alleging there is an anti-Trump “deep state.” Last month, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., claimed “it’s really the deep state versus the president” in an appearance on CNN. And on Thursday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired a segment focused on “purging the deep state” wherein he argued that Trump needs to “act right now” and execute mass firings to “end the leaks that are plaguing this administration.” In a follow-up column published on Friday, Hannity claimed “deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump” and must be fired.
During the White House press briefing on Friday, Yahoo News also asked Spicer if the director of national intelligence or the CIA director will have a “presidential mandate” to find and fire national security staffers who are working against the president. Spicer said no.
“That’s not part of the CIA’s mandate under any circumstances, so, no on that one,” Spicer said.