In true Washington fashion, the anonymous New York Times op-ed sparked an irrational, unproductive search for the author’s identity. If an unnamed “senior official” told us WWIII was about to break out, we wouldn’t spend our waking hours trying to find the official; we’d be trying to figure out whether he was right, what the consequences might be and how to stop it or ameliorate its ill effects.
Nevertheless, the fruitless search for the op-ed writer distracts us from the calamity. The president, we are repeatedly told by people close to him, is nonfunctioning, irrational and unfit to such a degree that he’s not fulfilling his job in a meaningful way. I’m inclined to agree with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who told CNN: “If senior administration officials think the President of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment.” She said, “The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the Vice President and senior officials think the President can’t do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the President — take documents off his desk, write anonymous op-eds. … Every one of these officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It’s time for them to do their job.”
The same should be said of Congress. The relevant Cabinet officials and former Cabinet officials need to testify, if need be in executive session. The House and Senate Armed Services committees should call in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees should interview former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the current secretary, Mike Pompeo. The Intelligence committees likewise need to speak with CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other senior officials. We shouldn’t be asking these people whether they wrote the op-ed, for goodness’s sake. We should be asking whether the president is fit. We should ask what they’ve personally seen.
Demand the translator’s notes from the Helsinki one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to ascertain whether Trump is lucid when speaking to an adversary. When Don McGahn leaves the White House, subpoena him to give his take on the president’s ability to comprehend the law and conform his behavior to comply with it.
If the 25th Amendment cannot be activated, the other alternative would be for Congress to move ahead with impeachment hearings based on available evidence of the president’s wrongdoing. He has already confessed that he had Russia in mind when he fired James B. Comey as head of the FBI, and he has publicly called for political prosecutions. That should help Congress get started.
Beltway chatter that obsesses about the identity of the op-ed author reflects the lack of seriousness and responsibility from Congress and, in many cases, from the press. Why isn’t someone calling for the president to undergo full mental and psychological testing by someone other than Ronny Jackson? Why isn’t someone like Gary Cohn, who spoke to Bob Woodward for his book on Trump, being subpoenaed to give testimony under oath to Congress?
Well, for one thing, everyone’s wrapped up in the guessing game. But the underlying problem remains: Republicans don’t want to know what’s wrong and don’t want to conduct oversight. There can be no better reason to throw them out of power than their unwillingness to perform basic duties — defending our constitutional system of elected government — when there are legitimate questions regarding the president’s capacity and whether we’ve suddenly decided that nonelected leaders rather than the elected vice president should surreptitiously take over.
By the way, why hasn’t anyone asked Mike Pence whether he has observed any of the behaviors described in the book or in the op-ed?