Trump says New York Times must turn White House aide behind anonymous op-ed 'over to the government'

President rages over 'gutless' article that claims cabinet discussed invoking 25th amendment

Jon Sharman
Thursday 06 September 2018 15:47 BST
Donald Trump calls anonymous NY Times op-ed 'gutless'

Donald Trump has demanded the New York Times hand over its “GUTLESS” anonymous op-ed writer after the person, who the paper said was a senior administration official, claimed to be part of a “resistance” movement inside the White House working to tame the US president’s wilder tendencies.

In an extraordinary article published on Wednesday evening the unnamed official claimed there had been “whispers” among members of Mr Trump’s cabinet about invoking the 25th amendment to the constitution and effectively ousting the billionaire Republican.

They described a “chaotic era” for America brought about by Mr Trump’s “misguided impulses” that were “detrimental to the health of our republic”, though they denied they were an operative of the so-called deep state, a longstanding bête noir of Mr Trump and his most ardent supporters.

“From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims,” the writer claimed.

Mr Trump reacted furiously to the article’s publication, which left him “volcanic” with rage, according to NBC. He tweeted: “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!”

Later, in the middle of the night, he added: “I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!”

The decision to publish came under the authority of James Bennet, editorial page editor, and James Dao, op-ed editor, with publisher AG Sulzberger weighing in, a Times spokeswoman said.

Mr Dao told a Times reporter the piece had been submitted last week through an intermediary, and that anonymity was not granted until editors were confident of the writer’s identity. While such a move is rare for the opinion pages, it is not unprecedented, and Mr Dao said the material in the essay was important enough to publish.

“We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers,” the newspaper said.

The piece added ”significant value to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration from someone who is in a position to know”, spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said. She did not respond to Mr Trump’s demand the author be handed over to the government.

The White House called it “pathetic, reckless and selfish”.

An incensed Mr Trump told reporters on Wednesday during a meeting with sheriffs: “If the failing New York Times has an anonymous editorial – can you believe it? Anonymous, meaning gutless – a gutless editorial, we’re doing a great job, the poll numbers are through the roof, our poll numbers are great, and guess what? Nobody is going to come close to beating me in 2020 because of what we’ve done.”

As Washington began to wake up on Thursday further denunciations rolled in – along with denials of responsibility from people at the highest levels of the administration.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said he was not behind the op-ed and called it “sad”, while the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said neither he nor his top deputy were involved. Defence secretary James Mattis also denied writing the piece.

Vice president Mike Pence issued a forceful denial that he had anything to do with it, following speculation online about the anonymous author’s use of the word “lodestar”. Jarrod Agen, Mr Pence’s communications chief, tweeted: “Our office is above such amateur acts.”

The Times article came at a difficult time for the president, who was still reacting to a string of explosive claims in an upcoming book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post journalist famous for exposing the Watergate Building break-in alongside Carl Bernstein.

Mr Woodward’s new book, Fear, chronicles an administration headed by an erratic commander in chief surrounded by aides who fear he poses a danger to the nation.

Excerpts released on Tuesday suggested some of Mr Trump’s key officials had acted behind his back, even going so far as to remove papers from his desk to keep him from signing them.

Fear: The 7 most explosive passages from Bob Woodward's Trump expose

The White House dismissed the work as “nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad”.

Mr Trump’s party is also facing a galvanised Democratic opposition in November’s mid-term elections, and the president plans to spend more than 40 days on the campaign trail to help the GOP hold onto its majorities in congress.

Additional reporting by agencies

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