The inflammatory New York Times op-ed from a “senior official in the Trump administration” landed like a bombshell on the Republican Party on Thursday.
The anonymous piece said that many senior officials in the administration are actively working to save the country from President Donald Trump’s “misguided impulses” and “amorality.” Trump reacted angrily and suggested the author may be guilty of “TREASON?” as he put it in a tweet.
But Trump wasn’t the only one to have a strong opinion about the piece. Its content — and anonymity — provoked swift reactions from Republican officials that highlighted deep fractures within the GOP formed during Trump’s presidency.
Republican allies said the op-ed was evidence of a deep state conspiracy to undermine the president. Frequent Republican critics like Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ben Sasse of Nebraska said the piece proved that the Trump White House was as chaotic as they had warned. And of course, over a dozen prominent administration officials and cabinet members swore their innocence with variations of “It wasn’t me!”
Even the vice president’s office went on the record to deny authorship in a tweet.
In the op-ed, the anonymous official alleged that people within the administration were working “to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t” and said that there had been early whispers of ousting the president using the 25th Amendment because he was unstable.
Perhaps in a sign of how popular Trump is among the Republican Party’s base, however, many members of the GOP rallied to Trump’s defense. Citing national security concerns, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a close ally of the White House, suggested there would be a investigation to discover the author.
“[E]fforts within the White House to anonymously sabotage a duly elected president is an act of cowardice and does not serve American taxpayers well,” he told Politico.
Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, also reference national security concerns — in the form of deep state conspiracy musings. “If there is a movement which this individual claims there is — and I haven't seen it — that is what the deep state is,” he told CNN.
Trump allies have long alleged that a conspiracy existed among the government bureaucracy to block and undermine the president. To these Trump defenders, the federal government was resisting an outsider president who pledged to drain the swamp.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has straddled the line of being a Trump-defender and Trump-critic, sided with Trump. He called the op-ed “BS” and that the author’s “view of the president as he or she is serving is out of sync with the people who elected him,” as he put it to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. “Where I live in South Carolina people are extremely pleased.”
Yet some Republicans seemed to agree with the op-ed author’s view of the president as one who operates without guard rails and needs some checking.. “It’s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week,” Sen. Sasse said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Thursday. “So it’s really troubling, and yet in a way, not surprising.”
Sasse wasn’t alone. Republican Sen. Corker, who once compared the White House to an “adult day care center” under Trump, said the op-ed was merely an echo of what he has frequently heard. “This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one,” Corker said.
But it’s unclear if these critiques or the op-ed will shake Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party, even if they raise concerns among some elected officials. The op-ed, and the reactions to it, may just become another outrageous news cycle in a long line of them during the Trump presidency.