The 'Deep State' Calls Are Coming From Inside Trump's White House
In the past 10 days we’ve seen unindicted co-conspirator Donald Trump’s petulant and petty response to the press coverage of Sen. John McCain’s death, how’s he’s exploded in reaction to early excerpts of Bob Woodward’s latest book Fear, and his essentially nuclear meltdown in response to the New York Times’ anonymous op-ed by a senior administration official who that says that “many appointees” remain in their positions largely to stop him from driving the country over a national security cliff.
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.
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.[...]
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over
This, of course, has caused a major clamor from Trump and his supporters, saying this author must be found, “turned over” to the government, and even prosecuted for security violations, although there was clearly no classified material within the op-ed. But the op-ed author’s specific identity— who we shall refer to as R-Anon for the sake of brevity—is actually the least interesting thing about this mess.
There has been speculation that R-Anon is Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, adviser Kellyanne Conway, and White House counsel Don McGahn. Nixon whistleblower John Dean has said he thinks chief of staff John Kelly could have written it. Former Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman says that it could have been a member of his family, indicating either son-in-law Jared Kushner or daughter Ivanka Trump.
This is consistent with reports that Kushner has been frustrated by Trump’s failure to listen to basic advice, because he’s too preoccupied with being vindictive.
“Jared Kushner went to the president and said, ‘do not revoke John Brennan’s security clearance, this is going to backfire,'” he recounted.
“And, according to my reporting, the president got, quote, ‘joy’ out of that decision,” Sherman explained.
“Jared Kushner came away from that exchange frustrated that not even basic advice is getting through to him because the president is pursuing his personal vendettas, as we saw with the McCain episode of not lowering the flags — that was grotesque — it was indicative that everyone around the president thinks he’s making bad decisions,” he reported.
Pence’s office has denied that he wrote the op-ed, despite its conspicuous use of the term “lodestar” in relation to John McCain.
The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds. The @nytimes should be ashamed and so should the person who wrote the false, illogical, and gutless op-ed. Our office is above such amateur acts.— Jarrod Agen (@VPComDir) September 6, 2018
And yet there is evidence that Pence is sympathetic to the point made in the op-ed. The section which talks about how the 25th Amendment had been considered early on, which would require agreement by Pence, was previously discussed twice by Steve Bannon in Michael Wolf’s Fire and Fury, as noted below by Rachel Maddow.
25th Amendment discussions have also been reported by Business Insider as well as by Wolf.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly has told people he thinks President Donald Trump has just a 30% chance of completing his four-year term.
According to two of the sources, Bannon warned Trump several months ago about the possibility of getting removed from office via the 25th Amendment, prompting Trump to ask, "What's that?"
A stipulation of the 25th Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet — that is, 13 of 24 Cabinet members — to vote the president out of office. Bannon reportedly considered it a more likely scenario than Trump's impeachment.
So that’s consistent. Like Pence, Pompeo has also denied being the author, but Bob Woodward’s book Fear makes numerous points from various members of Trump’s cabinet and staff which are also consistent with the op-ed.
According to Woodward’s book, Secretary of Defense James Mattis once said that Trump “acted like — and had the understanding of — a fifth- or sixth-grader.” The president’s poor understanding of global diplomacy occurred during a meeting about troops on the Korean Peninsula.
John Kelly called Trump an “idiot” who has “gone off the rails” to “Crazytown.”
In a bid to thwart a third world war, aides reportedly hid documents from Trump. James Mattis apparently once snapped at Trump that “We’re doing this in order to prevewww.rawstory.com/...nt World War III,” after he was asked why the U.S. is spending money to detect North Korean missile launches. (This was part of the same exchange that led to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supposedly called Trump a “fucking moron.”)
- Following the launch of chemical attacks against his own people, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad apparently almost became a target of U.S. assassination. According to Woodward’s sources, when the president heard news of the attack, he exploded and ranted “Let’s kill the f*cking lot of them.” Aides convinced him to instead opt for an air strike.
- Several staffers have snatched paperwork from the Oval Office desk to protect the nation. In one case, an aide swiped a letter that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea that affects our ability to monitor North Korean nukes. “I stole it off his desk,” former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said, according to the report. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document.”
Former staff secretary Rob Porter said he also stole documents off the Resolute desk. “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas,” Porter reportedly said.
This all matches Scarramucci’s claim that there are people in the WH who think they have to protect the country from Trump.
“There are people inside the administration who think it is their job to save America from this president,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s "New Day."
“That is not their job. Their job is to inject this president into Americaso that he can explain his views properly and his policies, so we can transform America and drain the swamp and make the system fairer for the middle- and lower-income people,” Scaramucci continued.
Er, what? And also, ewww.
Despite the ridicule that the White House has heaped onto Bob Woodard and his new book, Ryan Lizza has posted the document Woodward claims former Trump financial advisor Gary Cohn said he “swiped from the Resolute desk” so that Trump wouldn’t see it.
Woodward has receipts. For instance he publishes the draft letter Cohn swiped from Trump’s desk: pic.twitter.com/nvR42wY0Mf— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) September 6, 2018
This draft letter would have terminated a trade agreement we have with South Korea. That move would have also terminated a defense and early warning agreement we have with them, which would increase our response time to a North Korea missile launch from 7 seconds to more than 15 minutes. "Got to protect the country," Cohn has said about taking the letter.
And yet even after that, Cohn stayed at least until the issue he most cared about—the tax cut bill—passed. His eventual departure was predicated on his opposition to Trump's tariff war.
There’s also the point where former Trump campaign staffer Sam Nunberg tried to explain the Constitution to Trump, and only got as far as the Fourth Amendment.
“I got as far as the Fourth Amendment, before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head,” Sam Nunberg, a former adviser to the Trump campaign, said in Michael Wolff's bombshell new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, excerpted Wednesday in New York magazine.
This would explain why he doesn’t know what the 25th Amendment is.
It’s also been reported that former chief of staff Reince Priebus would backburner Trump’s requests for someone to be fired or policies to be put in place by telling the president it would happen “next week” then dropping it entirely, knowing Trump would have forgotten what he had asked for. He and other staff would also use golfing trips with Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker to push talking points onto Trump that he didn’t seem to want to hear in the White House.
According to the Washington Post, White House aides wishing to manipulate the president would provide talking points to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) or Bob Corker (R-TN) before golf outings with Trump in hopes of preventing the president from making rash or disastrous policy decisions.
So it is a method of “managing” Trump that has been adopted by his staff, and many have chosen to stay rather than simply quit. The argument that you have to stay in order to protect the country was essentially the same one that James Comey made to John Kelly, who wanted to resign in protest when Comey was fired.
Kelly told the newly ousted Comey that he intended to “quit in protest” because he “didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like [Comey] in such a manner,” according to book excerpts obtained by ABC News. Comey writes that he advised Kelly against quitting, saying “the country needed principled people around this president.”
“Principled people,” he said. Hmm.
This is also similar to what Sen. Bob Corker said when he claimed that Trump needed the “day care” treatment.
Donald Trump’s fractious relationship with the Republican establishment reached a bizarre new level on Sunday when Senator Bob Corker described the White House as an “adult day care center” and warned that the president risked setting the US “on the path to World War III”.
An extraordinary exchange between Trump and the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee began when Trump accused Corker, who is retiring, of “not having the guts” to run for re-election.
In response, Corker tweeted: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
Sen. Ben Sasse said that the op-ed’s claims were “just so similar” to what Congress hears from White House staffers every day.
“It’s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week,” the Nebraska Republican said during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewit.
People like Sens. Flake, Corker and Sasse have been open critics of Trump while still essentially aligning with his goals, but both Flake and Corker have found their support falling out from under them and have announced they’ll retire rather than running again. Meanwhile, Sasse’s career seems to be on death watch.
They’ve spoken out and put their name on it, but it doesn’t seem to have done much to change anything. The only result seems to be that their outspokenness has backfired on them. Why should someone else expect a different result?
All of this is even more relevant due to recent reports that officials in the White House actually made an emergency call to a psychiatrist because they feared Trump was growing “unhinged.”
White House officials were reportedly so concerned about Trump’s mental state and increasingly erratic behavior last year that they contacted a renowned Yale psychiatrist for help.
Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited the best-selling book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” told Salon and The New York Daily News on Thursday that two senior administration officials reached out to her two separate times on the same day last October because Trump was “scaring” them and they believed he was “unraveling.”
She also said a Trump family friend contacted her around the same time to express concerns about his mental state.
Lee said she wasn’t surprised by any of the behavior described in Woodward’s book, telling Salon that “it is all consistent with the psychological signs we observed and warned against 18 months ago.”
That all adds up to independent confirmation from Bob Woodward, Gary Cohn, Sen. Ben Sasse, and Dr. Bandy Lee.
We frankly shouldn’t have been surprised by what was said in this op-ed. We’ve been hearing exactly the same thing time and time again from White House leakers for months. This isn’t new, and it’s not technically news. What is new is that someone would go to such lengths, perhaps in desperation, to give Trump a “wake up call” or a “warning shot over the bow” in an attempt to get him to straighten up. But that is fruitless, and this behavior is not a bug in his system: it’s a main feature of his personality.
Two of his primary biographers, Mike D’antonio and Tony Schwartz, have repeatedly made the point that his tendency for delusion and denial have been with him for decades.
All of that is contrasted in response to the also retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said this about the op-ed author:
“A person who works in the administration serves at pleasure of the President,” he said at a press conference. “It’s a person who obviously is living in dishonesty. It doesn’t help the President. If you’re not interested in helping the President, you shouldn’t work for the President.”
Ryan seems to believe that everyone in the administration “serves at the pleasure of the President,” but that isn’t true. Longtime staffers are not supposed to be partisan and working to “help the president” instead of helping the country, as if they swear a pledge to the president of the moment instead of the Constitution. The fact of the matter is that all federal employees, even the appointees, are required to follow the Hatch Act and remain non-partisan.
All Department of Justice employees are subject to the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. 7323(a) and 7324(a), which generally prohibits Department employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty, in a federal facility or using federal property. Political activity is activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group. The statute carries serious penalties including REMOVAL from federal employment.
The Hatch Act applies to all federal employees;
It’s actually tradition for these persons not to be motivated by their allegiance to the party or a candidate, but by allegiance and duty to the nation. That’s what “principled people” do.
That’s on top the of the fact that federal employees have whistleblower protections under the law.
OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Rights afforded by these whistleblower protection laws include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work-related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes herein.
If the current White House resident puts the people of the nation or the lives of federal employees at risk with his actions, the law certainly protects the right of someone to call attention to that danger.
Further, if this person is fired or penalized for their legal public statements and they are a career federal employee, they have legal recourse for retaliation as a whistleblower.
You must always avoid any retaliation against whistleblowers when they come forward with complaints. There are both state and federal laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, that protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their companies and employers.
If you or your company engages in retaliation against a whistleblower who complains of fraud, illegal activities or other wrongful dealings in the workplace, you are risking a lawsuit brought by the worker. In addition, you could face criminal prosecution if the circumstances are correct.
The question then is, is Trump a danger to the public?
Well, despite the Goldwater rule, there are many mental health professionals who say that Trump as described by R anon is in very bad shape.
The author reports that Trump veers 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” and that according to a top official “there is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next." These parts of the OpEd suggest that Trump is a malignant narcissistprone to outbursts of what is called narcissistic rage when he doesn’t get his way. His reported impulsiveness suggests he may have some kind of adult attention disorder (which I am not qualified to give an opinion on). Added to reported impulsivity, he seems to have elements of an intermittent explosive disorder, which considering his aggressiveness, vindictiveness, ignorance, inability to think through consequences, and impulsivity could be very dangerous.
As far as whether the op-ed was the right thing to do, former White House ethics czar Norman Eisen is in strong supporter of R-Anon for speaking out.
Dear Anonymous,— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) September 5, 2018
This may be the single most ethical statement in the history of the Trump administration. Some will criticize you. Baloney. I hereby bestow upon you the Ethics Czar's Seal of Approval. You are my hero (or heroine).
Thank you, Normhttps://t.co/i5ZjnNKfDC
Eisen also says that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders has been the one who violated ethics rules by deliberately clogging up the phone lines at the New York Times in a bid to try and get them to reveal the author’s identity.
What R-Anon has said here is hardly unique or even special. It’s been said before, over and over again—and yet, this op-ed has launched a manhunt (or woman hunt or witch hunt, if you prefer) that is fairly unprecedented.
To find R-Anon, alleged libertarian Sen. Rand Paul has decided to let out his inner Stalin. He said that everyone in the White House with a security clearance should take a polygraph test, as well as certified affidavits. In response to this, former FBI and CIA officer Phil Mudd said on CNN: “Where’s the crime?” It’s not the FBI’s job to hunt down who wrote Trump a “Dear Donald, I like your policies but I’m just not that into you anymore” letter, which had no national security impact. Trump would have to bring in private contractors to do this, and since he’s a cheapskate skinflint, he would probably pay for it using money from his Inauguration fund, which has still got about $100 million worth of partially Russian money slushing around, unaccounted for.
Trump has since called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the R-Anon author’s identity, and says he’s looking to taking legal action against the New York Times—even though he has absolutely no grounds or legal rationale to do so. If Sessions actually does it, he would potentially end up being investigated himself by the Inspector General for a violation of the Hatch Act. It’s literally like calling Homeland Security over getting some slightly mean fan mail.
Trying to pick out certain words or phrases to identify R-Anon is probably fruitless, and it’s likely that this isn’t their first leak to the Times. It’s already been reported that various leakers have been copying each other's terms and phrases in order to throw leak hunters off the trail.
“To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,” the current White House official added.
So “lodestar” and “off the rails” are probably more likely proof that Pence and John Kelly aren’t R-Anon.
Gradually, a litany of denials from different officials has begun to roll in, all in written form and trotted out before Trump, like baubles of tribute. Interestingly, none of these denials state that the primary content of the op-ed isn’t true, only that they didn’t write it. Unfortunately, this is meaningless because former FBI deputy director Mark Felt claimed for 30 years that he wasn’t the original Deep Throat who had leaked to Woodward and Bernstein during their Watergate investigation—but he was He basically said he never called himself “Deep Throat” because that was a reference that was invented by Woodward and Bernstein as shorthand. A piece of paper with a denial in this context is worth as much as the paper would be if it were blank.
This is probably not the first thing this person has ever leaked, and it probably won’t be the last.
Be that as it may, it is interesting that chief of staff John Kelly hasn’t issued a denial yet.
And Jarvanka seems to have noticed and have accused Kelly directly of being the author according to Vanity Fair.
“The procession of denials by Cabinet secretaries and White House officials has done little to abate Donald Trump’s rage over the anonymous op-ed The New York Times published on Wednesday,” Sherman writes. “Flying to Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the writer of the piece.”
Other sourced close to the president described his sour mood.
“Rip-shit,” one person told Sherman. “He’s punch-drunk,” an outside adviser told him. “He’s been hit so hard this week he doesn’t know what to do.”
Apparently, Jared and Ivanka Trump are warning him that John Kelly is subverting his presidency.
“‘He’s destroying your presidency,’” Ivanka told her father, according to an outside adviser, who was told about the conversation. They also floated the idea that one of Kelly’s deputies had written the New York Times op-ed.
Going the opposite direction Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle has put 12-1 odds on the likelihood that Jared himself is R Anon because he can't quit and doing this might help he and Ivanka’s eventual return into polite New York society once the reign of Trump is over.
“The Jared Theory also answers a question so many have asked since the op-ed was published on Wednesday: Why doesn’t this self-styled patriot resign? There’s no leaving for Jared Kushner. As the saying goes: You marry The One, you marry the family. The only clean break from his dilemma is to wake up from a nightmare in June 2015”
“Jared and Ivanka return to New York and resume their climb to the top of Manhattan society,” the author suggested. “Having been so close two short years ago, now they’d have a hard time getting invited to the opening of a vape shop in Hell’s Kitchen. But errant sheep returning, shall we say, sheepishly to the fold is one of the great plotlines of literature and Page Six.”
The White House says that they’ve whittled the the list down to just a few suspects but WaPo reporter Josh Rogan says they have no idea who did it.
“I’ve been getting contacts from the White House officials ever since the thing was published, and every single one of them has floated the name of a person they already had a grudge against,” he continued. “And they are all different, okay?”
“Just based on what I’m hearing from White House officials, they are all pointing fingers in a different direction, they don’t know anything,” he added.
The guessing game is fun, but it’s ultimately missing the larger point because the fact that it’s very likely that any and all of the above could easily be R-Anon, or they could have already quietly resigned before the letter was published is exactly the point. The letter has produced exactly the insane panic it was intended to generate precisely because it is anonymous. If some other White House staffer had come out and repeated what Bannon, Tillerson, Cohn or Porter had previous said hardly anyone would notice. They’d be smeared and trashed a bitter traitorous disgruntled crank in the same way the Michael Cohen has been since he began admitting his involvement in Trump’s sleazier little schemes and accepted a guilty plea for campaign finance violations. Some White House officials have even said they wish they had written it.
“I find the reaction to the NYT op-ed fascinating — that people seem so shocked that there is a resistance from the inside,” one senior official told Axios. “A lot of us [were] wishing we’d been the writer, I suspect … I hope he [Trump] knows — maybe he does? — that there are dozens and dozens of us.”
Numerous current White House officials have told the website they consider the president unstable and dangerously slow, and they revealed that Trump is so paranoid about his staff that he carries a handwritten list of suspected leakers.
“He would basically be like, ‘We’ve gotta get rid of them, the snakes are everywhere but we’re getting rid of them,'” said a source close to Trump.
Trump administration officials have told the Daily Beast on condition of anonymity that the members of the group “went around fist-bumping each other” when the op-ed came out.
“Two Justice Department officials said they’ve been passively resisting the president since 2017. After the op-ed was published, ‘we even went around fist-bumping each other,’ one official said.”
So even if we do find R-Anon, there are apparently dozens and dozens of other willing authors with the exact same sentiments. They are Spartacus, and any more specific identification is basically irrelevant. This ship of state is full of rats.
The real question is why the op-ed was written in the first place, and I think this diary by Northleft has it exactly right.
In my opinion, the person(s) who wrote that New York Times opinion piece didn’t do it anonymously to protect their asses. They did it because it was tactically the best way to get under Trump’s skin and shut his entire presidency down. None of that would have happened if one or more of them had signed their name to it and quit. Dozens of people have already done that from the Trump administration, and Donald is still standing.
But nobody has pulled a “the call is coming from the inside of the house!” on him.
It’s going to drive him crazy. Loyalty is everything to him. And this letter is a picture postcard of cruel, bone-crushing disloyalty.
Despite the issue of the non-disparagement agreements that many White House staffers have signed (and could potentially cost this person millions in civil penalties), the main advantage of remaining anonymous is that it will drive Trump up the wall.
This person (or persons) have made it clear they support Trump’s agenda, but not necessarily Trump’s behavior, demeanor, and comportment. They make, as many have before them, a compelling case that he is quite literally unfit for the office. While it is refreshing that even some hardcore Republicans have not completely swallowed the Trump Kool-Aid, the fact that they are willing to tolerate and ameliorate his sociopathy simply to get tax cuts (which are exploding the deficit), deregulation (which is putting the health and safety of the public at risk), and judicial picks (which will ignore and override the rights of women, workers, and minorities) is rather disheartening. They don't care about Trump: they only care about their agenda, ignoring the fact that both are a clear and present danger to the nation.
They suggest quite strongly that Trump will not finish his first term on his own steam. With the GOP in Congress desperate to protect his administration by concocting various plots and theories of a Dem-friendly “deep state” that’s out to get Trump, there is basically less than zero chance that 67 senators will vote to remove Trump from office—unless he does something so egregious, so outrageous, that even those who are wholly in the tank for him cannot turn a blind eye to it.
Possibly the best way to prompt him to make such an egregious legal or political mistake is by placing him in exactly the position he’s in now, with nothing but suspected enemies, opponents, and leakers around every corner.
He’s already called for the illegal seizure and detention of a U.S. citizen for basically writing a letter. He’s called this person a potential “traitor,” even though that requires the “aiding and abetting of an enemy nation”—not merely being a political or policy enemy. He default position when challenged is let out his inner totaltarian, if he actually acts on this he is likely to openly violate several laws right from the Oval office.
He’s teetering right on the edge, and he just might trip and fall off after a push like this.