The Trump administration has been thrown into chaos by an anonymous article from a senior official published in the New York Times, in which the unnamed author reveals that senior staff within the White House are ignoring and working against the president’s instructions. It confirms a similar story in Bob Woodward’s new book Fear.
Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to brand the NYT article treasonous, and the article has sparked a hunt for the mole within the White House.
It’s not the first time in the history of American democracy that members of the cabinet and White House staff have taken steps to subvert the will of the sitting president: during the dying days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, his defence secretary, James R. Schlesinger, warned generals not to follow Nixon’s orders unless they also came with Schlesinger’s instructions.
But the big difference is that Schlesinger had the presence of mind not to run his mouth to Bob Woodward or the NYT until the Nixon presidency had reached its end, and when Schlesinger took his extra-constitutional action the Nixon presidency had just weeks to run.
Although it is likely that the Democrats will pull off the landslide win they need to achieve even a bare majority in the House of Representatives, they have no hope or prospect of winning enough Senate seats to make impeachment a realistic possibility. Trump’s presidency has, by the most optimistic calculus, at least two years left to run.
We know that Trump is already subject to paranoia and a tendency to bend and break the rules when things don’t go his way. Now he has received confirmation of his fears in the pages of a national newspaper. He will feel emboldened in acting to root out what he sees as his internal enemies within the White House, and their replacements may not be as willing to engage in Schlesinger-style heroics. That anonymous official might yet have a lot to answer for.