the national interest

Senior White House Official Confesses Anti-Trump Cabal in Newspaper Trump Reads [Updated]

The call is coming from inside the building. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The subtext of the continuous flow of leaks from the Trump administration is that the president of the United States is comprehensively unfit for office, and that many of the people working with him hold him in contempt and view their role as saving the country from his derangement. Now a New York Times op-ed by a current, necessarily anonymous White House official has made the subtext text.

The bill of particulars listed by the anonymous official is by now familiar. Trump’s management style is wildly incompetent. (“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.”) His impulses are “undemocratic.” The Cabinet has “whispered” about invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which would remove a president deemed unable to function.

But the main revelation of the op-ed is the author’s frank declaration that he and other officials are engaged in ongoing restraint, arguably shading into outright sabotage against the duly elected leader of the Executive branch. The author states that he and other Trump officials are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” and “thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

The truly bizarre aspect of the op-ed is the author’s decision to publish it. Having deemed Trump a threat to the “health of our republic,” he has frankly exposed the existence of a cabal within the administration. In a newspaper. That Trump can read (or if necessary, have read to him).

Trump has already conducted purges attempting to find leakers. He is in the middle of one right now, looking for staffers who may have spoken to Bob Woodward. By frankly admitting that  there is a cabal working explicitly to undermine his agenda, this staffer increases the odds that Trump will identify and purge the saboteurs.

Still, the bizarre self-defeating rationale for its publication should not distract from its astonishing value as an historic artifact. A currently serving senior White House official writing a public declaration that the president is unfit for office is an event never seen before, and which attests to the ongoing surreality of Trump’s Washington.

Update: The Trump administration officially replies by emphasizing the wimpiness of the author. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls him a “coward”:

And Trump calls the author “gutless”:

Of course, the author had good reason not to admit his identity. If he did, he’d be fired, and wouldn’t be able to stop the deranged president from hurting the country! The problem isn’t that he’s gutless, it’s that he’s too gutty. By recklessly calling Trump’s attention to the plot against him, the author is undermining its effectiveness.