'The Resistance Inside The Trump Administration': A Constitutional Crisis?

Sep 6, 2018
Originally published on September 6, 2018 2:32 pm

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed Wednesday afternoon from a senior official in the Trump administration who claims to be working with others to thwart the president’s agenda. We dig in.

Guests

Kristen Welker, NBC News White House correspondent. (@kwelkernbc)

Eliana Johnson, White House reporter for Politico. (@elianayjohnson)

Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College. (@HC_Richardson)

Brian C. Kalt, professor of law and the Harold Norris Faculty Scholar at Michigan State University’s College of Law. (@ProfBrianKalt)

From The Reading List

New York Times: “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” — “President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

“It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

“The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

“I would know. I am one of them.”

The Atlantic: “This Is a Constitutional Crisis” — “Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.

“If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no ‘riskiness’ exemptions in the text of that oath.”

The Weekly Standard: “The Four Men Most Likely to be Behind the New York Times Op-ed” — “It’s only been online for a few hours, but the anonymous New York Times op-ed penned by a ‘senior official in the Trump administration’ has set off a frenzy of guessing about who is claiming to be one of the people ‘working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.’

“The White House was out with a response Wednesday afternoon. ‘We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the paper chose to publish this pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed,’ reads the statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. ‘The individual behind this piece 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.’

“There are some clues within the 965-word essay of who the ‘coward’ (or courageous truth-teller, depending on your perspective) really is. There are indications the writer is a movement conservative, including a line that castigates Trump for not sharing conservatives’ affinity for “free minds, free markets, and free people.” There is a noticeable lack of discussion of any issues of constitutionalism, the law, or immigration. The writing is straightforward, unpretentious, and familiar with the conventions of op-eds.”

CNN: “13 people who might be the author of The New York Times op-ed” — “On Wednesday afternoon, The New York Times posted an anonymous op-ed titled: ‘I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.’

“The piece is remarkable. Identified only as a “senior official in the Trump administration,” the piece lays out how the author — as well as other colleagues within the administration — are waging a semi-open campaign to keep the President from doing too much damage to the nation.

“‘Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,’ the author writes.”

Poynter: “‘Anonymous’ NYT byline quite rare, often given for reasons of safety” — “On Wednesday, the newspaper’s startling ‘anonymous’ op-ed — which it verified as coming from a senior Trump White House official — caused a firestorm and backed up accounts in Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, ‘Fear,’ about underlings going to extremes to protect America from an impulsive, unbalanced president. The op-ed talked about Trump’s ineffective leadership and moves to prevent his ‘half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions.’ ”

Wall Street Journal: “The 25th Amendment? Forget It” — “Interest in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment is peaking. Multiple amateur constitutional scholars have advocated its use to remove President Trump from office, as an alternative to impeachment. But Section 4 is a tool for a different job. Its use under today’s circumstances has the potential to tear the country apart.

“Section 4 is not a suitable substitute for impeachment. To be sure, impeachment sets a high bar: a majority in the House, then two-thirds in the Senate to convict and remove an official. Section 4 sounds easier: If the vice president and a majority of the cabinet declare the president ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,’ the vice president becomes acting president.”

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