White House

An Open Letter to the NYT’s Anonymous Senior Trump Administration Official

President Donald Trump takes questions about an anonymous op-ed from the New York Times in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., September 5, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
For the good of the nation, you must identify yourself and back up your claims about the president with hard evidence.

Dear Anonymous,

This isn’t normal Washington politics anymore. It’s not a game. Your instantly infamous New York Times op-ed has painted us a picture of your character, and it’s not pretty.

Let’s put this as bluntly as possible: If you’re actively defying the president to pursue your own preferred policies, you’re subverting an American presidential election. If you’re withholding from the American people actual hard evidence of presidential unfitness, then you’re placing your own career before your country. If you’re lying or badly exaggerating the facts for the thrill of constant media contact or the approval of your peers, then you’re just despicable.

In Bob Woodward’s new book and your Times piece, Americans now face claims that the president’s staff often decides his orders are so outlandish that they must be ignored. We face claims that members of his own administration have sought to thwart his will in part by literally taking documents off his desk and hoping he doesn’t notice. And now there’s even a claim that Trump’s behavior was so outlandish and unstable that “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment.”

Allegations don’t get much more explosive than that.

So here’s what you have to do: You have to identify yourself. You have to state the basis of your claims, name the cabinet members who “whispered” about removing the president, and state the reasons for their alarm. If what you say is true, the American people need to know. You need to tell them, and you need to do it not in a television interview or the pages of the Times, but in Congress, under oath, in front of the nation.

Yes, this will be hard. But if you truly believe the president is unfit, basic patriotism demands nothing less.

There is a lot of talk about the kind of behavior that’s “priced in” with Trump. Aside from the cultists, millions of voters cast their ballots knowing that he was a flawed man. They knew, and still know, that he’s cheated on his wife. They wished, and still wish, that he wouldn’t rage on Twitter, that he showed more self-discipline, and that he had more integrity. But they preferred him to Hillary Clinton, another corrupt candidate.

But there’s something else that voters have “priced in,” too: They expect that Trump will face stiff resistance from the Republican establishment, and that the permanent class of civil servants — the “deep state” we hear so much about — will loathe and seek to undermine him. So when you run to the Times or to the Post and make anonymous claims, Trump’s supporters quite fairly question your motives. If the crisis is so bad, and your motives are so pure, why not go on the record?

That said, I’ve been living alongside Trump supporters every day of my life since he came down that escalator. I know what they see in him. I know what they expect in him. And I’ll tell you what’s not “priced-in”: Actual instability. True stories of dangerous behavior. Some certain hardcore cohort of Twitter trolls and Trumpists will never leave their man. Some number of Republican congressmen would stand by his side no matter what, too. But constitutional correction in this case doesn’t require unanimity. It does require testimony and evidence that verifies your claims.

We have reached a miserable point in American democracy. Unelected public servants so distrust the political branches of government that they actually work to undermine elected officials or refuse to even attempt to utilize constitutional systems of checks and balances. If you’re telling the truth, there exist within the Trump administration people who believe that our nation is led by a man who’s too unstable to govern. Yet to these people, even that level of a national emergency doesn’t justify the risk to career and reputation inherent in resignation and public testimony? A nation once worth dying for is now only worth leaking for?

The alternative explanation, of course, is even worse: Maybe you and your fellow anonymous leakers aren’t telling the truth. Maybe you’re exaggerating so much that you’re stoking a false sense of fear and urgency. Based on the gap between the president’s Twitter feed and the administration’s actions, it’s clear that something is happening to thwart his will or change his mind. But is there a real fire behind all this smoke? We just don’t know.

I find it ironic that you saw fit to invoke the memory of Senator John McCain in your Times piece. Whatever you think of McCain’s ideology, no reasonable person can deny his courage. He flew into a storm of missiles. He was tortured. He refused early release. He was one of many heroes in our nation’s history who laid their lives on the line to defend its ideals. Yet even as you invoke the kind of patriots whose blood waters the Tree of Liberty, you infect it with the rot of your cowardice. Are you inspired by McCain? Then show one-tenth his courage.

Name yourself. Let America test your claims.



The Latest