Tuesday, the Washington Post published a summary of some of the highlights from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Fear. One of the striking claims made in the piece is that some people working close to the president have attempted to rein in his worst instincts, sometimes by stealing documents off his desk to prevent them from being signed. Woodward describes this as an “administrative coup d’etat.”
Today, the NY Times published an anonymous op-ed by a “senior official” in the administration who claims administrative attempts to hold Trump back are very real. In fact, he (or she) claims this approach is seen as an alternative to invoking the 25th Amendment!
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader…
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
The deep state is in the house! Then, near the end of the piece, comes this bombshell:
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.
Is this report of “whispers” reliable? The NY Times states up front that the author is “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.” So this person appears to be in a position to have heard things, though that’s not the same as backing up this specific claim. The author then gets to why this is happening:
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making…
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.
The author goes on to say that the result of all of this is a “two-track presidency” in which the president and the government are not always doing the same things. For instance, on Russia Trump was reportedly hesitant to oust Putin’s spies after the Skripal attack in the UK but his team felt differently and so the spies were ousted. “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state,” the author writes.
I’m not sure I see the difference. In either case, it’s people assuming authority they haven’t been given. How long before this person is outed (or outs himself) as the author? Will anyone else back up his 25th Amendment claim or the claim that many senior officials feel this way? These allegations seem too serious to be a one-day story.
Update: A very good point. Isn’t this op-ed itself counter-productive? Surely this is only adding fuel to Trump’s fire.
One weird thing about this anon op-ed: If you're arguing your goal at WH is to calm Trump down, doesn't publishing this op-ed (particularly in NYT) accomplish the exact opposite?
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) September 5, 2018
Update: That was quick! Trump calls it a “gutless” editorial.
The Failing New York Times! pic.twitter.com/SHsXvYKpBf
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
And here’s the response from Sarah Sanders:
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 5, 2018