Panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" were aghast at a poll showing the widespread belief in "deep state" conspiracy theories promoted by President Donald Trump.
The president and his right-wing allies -- from Fox News hosts to InfoWars' Alex Jones -- have claimed Trump is the victim of a government plot to undermine his presidency and remove him from office, rather than the target of a law enforcement investigation of his political and business ties to Russia.
Although 63 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the term "deep state," according to Monmouth University, 74 percent said they believe such a network exists in Washington when pollsters described the conspiracy theory.
"America is an idea, it's not a democracy, it's not a republic before it is an idea," said MSNBC analyst Mike Barnicle. "And the idea that 74 percent, according to the Monmouth University poll, believe there is a deep state run by a military-political intellectual hierarchy, apart from government, and this is the gift we've gotten from Donald Trump. This is the gift we've gotten from him surrendering to Vladimir Putin and causing chaos in the country."
Host Mika Brzezinski and two of her guests, veteran diplomat Richard Haas and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, explained how career bureaucrats helped elected officials navigate a complicated U.S. foreign policy.
"This is not happening in a vacuum," said Haas, the longtime president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Over the next two or three months this administration is going to face three enormous decisions, what to do about these tariffs, and what to do about the Iran nuclear agreement, and the idea that it is consumed by this chaotic churn of people and what to do about this investigation, the combination of the two, again, this is about as bad as it gets."
Brzezinski suggested one wrong move by the Trump administration could set off a nuclear showdown -- or worse -- and Ignatius agreed the stakes were enormous.
"It's a really dangerous time, real challenges for an inexperienced president -- thank goodness we have very good people in the military," Ignatius said. "I just want to note one thing about this deep state poll. It's a very dangerous thing when most of the country begins to believe that a small group in the country is manipulating decisions. We've seen that historically in countries that begin to break down."
"I've spent much of my life reporting from countries in the Middle East where people believe that, that conspiratorial idea that politics is embedded," Ignatius added. "If the United States is becoming a country like that, people have to fight for democracy. If most people think my vote is stolen, it doesn't matter then you get into that it appeals to that feeling that people have and you begin to go over the edge, so I take that poll seriously."