President Trump excoriated as “gutless” an anonymous senior administration official who wrote an opinion column in The New York Times on Wednesday saying that many of the president’s advisers are deliberately conspiring in a resistance within the government to thwart the president’s agenda and save the nation from “his worst inclinations.”
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In a rare unsigned article, the Trump official wrote that government officials who are aghast at the president’s behavior “have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
“I would know. I am one of them,” the official wrote.
The president, bristling with defiance about an hour after the article began generating a social media firestorm, said the author was cowardly and the news organization was irresponsible to publish the essay.
“We have somebody in what I call ‘the failing New York Times’ talking about he’s part of the resistance within the Trump administration. This is what we have to deal with,” Mr. Trump said at a White House gathering with county sheriffs. “An anonymous editorial, can you believe that? Meaning gutless. A gutless editorial.”
He said the author was “some anonymous source within the administration, probably who’s failing, and who’s probably here for all the wrong reasons.”
Mr. Trump tweeted later, “Treason?”
He later elaborated on Twitter that “if the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
The White House demanded an apology from The New York Times, and called for the unidentified “coward” who wrote the piece to resign.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the paper chose to publish this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “This is a new low for the so-called ‘paper of record,’ and it should issue an apology, just as it did after the election for its disastrous coverage of the Trump campaign. This is just another example of the liberal media’s concerted effort to discredit the president.”
The Times said it granted anonymity to the senior administration official, identified as a male, as “the only way to deliver an important perspective.” The title of “senior” administration official could apply to hundreds of government personnel. The conservative group Americans for Limited Government called on the White House to administer lie-detector tests to find the person.
The unidentified Trump official wrote, “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 anonymous official said Mr. Trump often exhibits “erratic” behavior in meetings, raising concerns about his fitness for office.
“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,” the official wrote. “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.”
The unidentified government official also expressed admiration for the late Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican who clashed often with Mr. Trump. The lawmaker died of brain cancer on Aug. 25 at age 81.
“We may no longer have Sen. McCain,” the official wrote. “But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.”
The author pointed to Mr. Trump’s actions on Russia and President Vladimir Putin as an example of his advisers working against him.
“The president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain,” the official wrote. “He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.
The author said, “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state … There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.”
The essay mirrors some of the accusations in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward, who describes top aides characterizing Mr. Trump’s White House as “off the rails” and writing that advisers sometimes steal documents from the president’s desk to prevent him from taking rash actions.
Mr. Trump called those accusations “false.”
“It’s false. Made up,” he told the Daily Caller in an interview. “Disgruntled employees or just made up, could just be made up by the author. It’s just nasty stuff.”
Mrs. Sanders said the anonymous author “has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected president of the United States.”
“He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign,” she said.
Mr. Trump criticized The New York Times at length for its decision to publish the anonymously written editorial.
“If I weren’t here, I believe The New York Times probably wouldn’t exist,” Mr. Trump said. “Someday when I’m not president, which hopefully will be about six and a half years from now, The New York Times and CNN and all these phony media outlets will be out of business.”
The president said he agrees with the anonymous author only in the sense that his administration’s policies are “different from an agenda which is much different from ours.”
“And it’s certainly not your agenda,” he told the sheriffs. “It’s about open borders, it’s about letting people flee into our country, it’s about a disaster of crime. So [opponents] don’t like Donald Trump and I don’t like them, because they’re very dishonest people.”
In The New York Times op-ed, the author said of Mr. Trump, “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.
“Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people,” the official wrote. “At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.”
“In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the ‘enemy of the people,’ President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic,” he wrote.
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