Deep Throat used an underground parking garage to brief against Nixon. Donald Trump’s anonymous whistleblower used the op-ed pages of the New York Times — pushing the president into a self-pitying rage.
Wednesday’s anonymous editorial purportedly by a senior administration official claimed members of Trump’s team are working to protect the country from a president who's fundamentally unfit to lead.
The extraordinary attack from within his own camp provoked a furious reaction from Trump, who blasted the article as “anonymous, meaning gutless” in a statement before cameras at the White House.
Of the “failing” New York Times, Trump said, “They don't like Donald Trump and I don't like them because they're very dishonest people.” He described the op-ed’s author as “some anonymous source within the administration probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons.”
Trump later tweeted, “TREASON?” and questioned whether the source even existed, before demanding that the newspaper hand over the author to the government “for National Security purposes.”
Despite the article’s headline — “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration — the author made clear they were not aligned with the popular left-wing “resistance” against the White House. They wanted to see the Trump administration’s policy goals successfully enacted, but said the president acted “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” requiring responsible elements within his administration to “do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Trump's more misguided impulses.”
The op-ed said “amorality” and “impulsiveness” made Trump prone to make “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions.” As a result, it said, a resistance movement had emerged within the White House to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” until he left office, or could be removed.
"The root of the problem is the President's amorality,” wrote the unnamed official, adding that “adults in the room” were attempting to shield the country from the impacts of Trump’s worst impulses. “Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”
It said that some in the administration had even raised the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment, a constitutional provision enabling the vice-president and a majority of Cabinet secretaries to vote to remove a president who was unfit for office.
But, because "no-one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis,” they had resolved to attempt to keep the chaotic presidency afloat for as long as it lasted, while minimizing its most harmful impacts.
The extraordinary op-ed prompted intense debate as to the author. Many on Twitter speculated that the use of the word “lodestar” — a term Vice President Mike Pence has publicly used on numerous occasions — pointed to Trump’s deputy, who is known to harbor presidential ambitions. Others thought that the use of the distinctive word was more likely a ruse to throw people off the scent of the true whistleblower.
While Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted the author as a “coward” who should resign from the administration, the New York Times defended their decision to publish the piece anonymously, saying the writer’s "job would be jeopardised" if their identity were revealed.
"We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to readers," the Times said. "We are incredibly proud to have published this piece, which adds significant value to the public's understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration."
According to Axios, Trump's paranoia is nothing new. A source told the website Thursday the president used to carry around a handwritten list of people he suspected to be leakers. "The snakes are everywhere," Trump reportedly said.
Cover image: Donald Trump speaks on a range of topics during a meeting with sheriffs from across the country at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)