A senior official from the Trump Administration wrote an anonymous opinion column in the New York Times on September 5 vowing to block President Donald Trump’s misguided impulses to preserve democratic institutions. The writer, who described the root problem as Trump’s “amorality”, said his actions were detrimental to the health of the country.
“We fully recognise what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t,” the senior official wrote. “There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.”
He called the current situation a “two-track presidency”.
Donald Trump responds to NYT Op-Ed
‘TREASON?’ was Trump’s first reaction to the NYT column, which came within hours of it being published. He went on to tweet, “Does the so-called “Senior Administration Official” really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”
Trump’s wife and First Lady Melania Trump have come out in his defence, saying the author is “sabotaging” the country through “cowardly actions”. The Associated Press quoted her as saying, “If a person is bold enough to accuse people of negative actions, they have a responsibility to publicly stand by their words and people have the right to be able to defend themselves.”
Rushing to defend themselves, a host of officials have denied knowledge of the piece and involvement in the alleged resistance. A statement from the office of Vice-President Mike Pence said: “The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.” Other reactions included:
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State: “It’s not mine.”
Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary: “It was not his op-ed,” his spokesperson said.
Nikki Haley, US Ambassador: “No”, to a question on whether it was her.
Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence: “Speculation that The New York Times op-ed was written by me or my Principal Deputy is patently false. We did not. From the beginning of our tenure, we have insisted that the entire IC remain focused on our mission to provide the President and policymakers with the best intelligence possible.”
Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary: “I did not write and am thoroughly appalled by this op-ed. I couldn’t be prouder of our work at Commerce and of (at)POTUS.”
Rick Perry, Energy Secretary: “I am not the author of the New York Times OpEd, nor do I agree with its characterizations. Hiding behind anonymity and smearing the President of the United States does not make you an `unsung hero’, it makes you a coward, unworthy of serving this Nation.”
Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary: “Secretary Nielsen is focused on leading the men and women of DHS and protecting the homeland – not writing anonymous and false opinion pieces for the New York Times. These types of political attacks are beneath the Secretary and the Department’s mission,” said his secretary.
Don McGahn, White House counsel: “No.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Andrew Wheeler, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Transportation Communications Secretary Elaine Chao are among others who have denied involvement.
Who knows the mystery NYT Op-Ed writer?
According to a report in The Associated Press, there are only a handful of people who know who has written the column. As the newspaper’s editorial division is separate from the news team, the decision to publish the column was taken by Op-Ed Editor James Dao, Editorial Page Editor James Bennet and Publisher A G Sulzberger.
Dean Baquet, who is in charge of the news section, was reportedly not part of the decision.
Dao said he could not think of any circumstances under which anyone would be made to reveal the identity of the author, reported AP.
With the publication of the piece, while on the one side the NYT is gaining praises, on the other, it has invited a barrage of criticism. It is largely with regard to identification of the anonymous writer.
Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, tweeted that, based on her experience with the Times and sourcing, “this person could easily be someone most of us have never heard of and more junior than you’d expect.”
The media organisation is already at the receiving end of criticism from the White House, with the President leading the charge on Twitter.
Meanwhile, a larger debate is looming among the news organisation whether they would have gone ahead with publishing an anonymous piece or not. Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, a long time rival of the NYT, told MSNBC that if the author had come to the Post it would provoke a serious discussion because the newspaper has not in the past run anonymous op-ed columns.
“When you give someone anonymity on this, you are putting your credibility on the line,” Marcus said.
The resistance, while opposing the Trump presidency by thwarting parts of his agenda, fails to show the gumption to invoke the 25th amendment saying that no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis, thus clearly indicating a possibility for Trump to complete his four years in the White House. Meanwhile, the President is hoping for a second term in office.