Tucked into that New York Times op-ed from an anonymous senior Trump administration official is a brief mention of the 25th Amendment — that mirage many Americans see as they trudge through their own personal deserts in the Trump Era.
"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,” wrote the official, making some news. “But,” the official added, “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."
So the person who says members of Trump's administration are actively working against him and trying to prevent him from acting upon his own decisions ... doesn't want this whole thing to turn into a crisis?
The cat appears to be very much out of the bag on that one. The idea that we are in a constitutional crisis is overwrought — and has been for quite some time — but the rest of the op-ed and some anecdotes from Bob Woodward's new book portray what could very justifiably be described as a democratic crisis.
The NYT op-ed author says “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations.” They add that departments and agencies are “working to insulate their operations from his whims.” They say some “heroes” in the White House “have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing."
This, either by happenstance or because there is a building sense of desperation and/or mutiny, sounds a lot like what Woodward describes some senior officials doing in his book, portions of which broke Tuesday.
Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and former staff secretary Rob Porter, Woodward wrote, took to removing papers from Trump's desk to prevent him from taking actions. Woodward also reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at one point outright disregarded Trump's decision to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said after talking to Trump, “We’re not going to do any of that."
As I wrote Wednesday, we had four examples in a little more than 24 hours of senior White House officials resorting to subterfuge or outright disregarding or avoiding what the president wanted to do. That's remarkable. And in any other administration, it would be a scandal in and of itself.
Imagine if Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gates just decided they wouldn't do what Barack Obama wanted them to do. Imagine if Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer decided to prevent George W. Bush from actually, you know, doing presidential things. These are unelected people doing their best to override the will of the duly elected president of the United States.
Most of the country that opposes Trump may cheer that because they dislike Trump, and the officials may justify it to themselves and their like-minded fellow officials by pointing to the potentially calamitous alternative. But in this official's telling, these officials are essentially trading one type of crisis for another — or perhaps somehow convincing themselves that a president's own aides and advisers forming a “resistance” isn't a crisis.
It seems the same thing that convincing them to remain anonymous is convincing them that this crisis isn't as bad as that crisis: Raw, ambitious hope. If they were truly that worried, you'd have to think they would be so alarmed that they'd come out publicly about what's happening. Instead, they seem to want to protect themselves and hope everything turns out okay. They think it best to muddle through with a democratic crisis that could turn into an American crisis, while shunning the constitutional option that was put in place, it seems, for just such a circumstance.
But if things are truly as bad as they say they are, that's quite the gamble.