Don't let the buck stop there! It started off like many other days in Donald Trump's White House. The job was to discredit reports — the latest in Bob Woodward's book "Fear" — that portrayed an administration beset by chaos, incoherence and an impulsive, rage-prone president, and to hunt down the tattletale leakers.
But the internal intrigue blew past "House of Cards" levels...
Don't let the buck stop there!
It started off like many other days in Donald Trump's White House. The job was to discredit reports — the latest in Bob Woodward's book "Fear" — that portrayed an administration beset by chaos, incoherence and an impulsive, rage-prone president, and to hunt down the tattletale leakers.
But the internal intrigue blew past "House of Cards" levels Wednesday. What Woodward and others before him have reported received a shocking confirming source: an anonymous "senior official in the Trump administration" who wrote an Op-Ed for The New York Times. Lacking the name, let's call the author "In Deep with Trump."
Trump "does not fully grasp," the official writes, "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." It's not the "popular 'resistance' of the left," the author writes. These officials support many administration policies that "have already made America safer and more prosperous," but fear that Trump, unchecked, would be a destructive force.
"We believe our first duty is to this county, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic," the official said. "That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office."
The author faults Trump for "amorality," lack of principles, declaring the news media the "enemy of the people" and impulses that are "generally anti-trade and anti-democratic." His leadership style is "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective." He makes "half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back."
Noting as an example that the administration as whole made sure the U.S. maintained a tough policy toward Russia despite Trump's grousing, the writer said, "This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state."
Early on, the writer said, there were "whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th amendment" — a never-before-used measure that could remove a mentally unfit president from office — "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."
Well, who wouldn't be paranoid?
That was Trump's one-word tweet by early evening as the president and his press office toggled between the anonymous official and the Times as targets of their vituperation. Next, he demanded: "If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"
"Gutless," "really a disgrace," Trump said when asked for comment by reporters. (Click here for video.) The author, he said, is someone "probably who’s failing, and who’s probably here for all the wrong reasons."
A statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States." She added: "The coward should do the right thing and resign."
Many of her remarks and most of Trump's were aimed at the news media, not the mystery author, and an inconvenient truth may be the reason. The president promised to bring in the "best people," and demands loyalty, yet many have turned on him.
For more on the latest White House turmoil, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue
Frantic efforts were underway inside the White House to try to learn the identity of the unnamed "senior official," The Washington Post reported.
“It’s like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house,” said one former White House official in close contact with former co-workers.
And the list of potential suspects is yuuuuuge.
“The problem for the president is it could be so many people,” one administration official said. “You can’t rule it down to one person. Everyone is trying, but it’s impossible.”
Janison: A boy named sue
The Woodward book had Trump on Twitter falling back on one of his tried-if-not-true tropes: Why isn't it easier to sue for libel? "Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?" he tweeted.
It's a question that has been asked and answered before — by Trump. He recalled in 2016 getting advice that could backfire on him: “You know, you might be sued a lot more.”
Add that to an ever-growing list of demands he makes threats about but will never put before lawmakers, who would likely ignore him, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
All the president's mendacity
Trump trotted out new falsehoods in his attempt to raise doubts about the veracity of Woodward's book.
Denying in a Daily Caller interview Tuesday that he called Attorney General Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded," Trump said he never used that term on anyone.
Yes he did, multiple times. Such as on the Howard Stern radio show in 2004, when he called his golf instructor "retarded" for not grasping the nuances of Trump's salary negotiations for "The Apprentice," according to HuffPost. Or on Stern's show about an unnamed magazine writer (It's on this audio link at the 8:49 mark.) The Daily Beast reported in 2016 that he repeatedly used that word to criticize actress Marlee Matlin when she appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice."
On another subject, Trump more preposterously than ever exaggerated the relationship, which was mainly professional, between fired FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller. He said, "I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other." We'll keep an eye on Trump's Instagram page, but we expect a long wait.
Can Trump count on Kavanaugh?
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, on his first day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, said he would treat no one as above the law, even presidents. He sought to declare his independence from Trump, who nominated him, as Democrats probed whether he could become the president's protector against Mueller's investigation.
Kavanaugh took the route of all nominees and refused to answer questions about specific issues or cases that could come before him, such as a potential Trump fight against a Mueller subpoena. See Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
On Thursday the Times revealed a secret email showing Kavanaugh in 2003 challenging the idea that Roe v. Wade is "settled law of the land," which is bound to provoke a new abortion-rights fury.
Another excerpt from Woodward's book, reported by Axios, described Trump's private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women: Deny everything, apologize for nothing.
"'If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead," Trump is quoted as having said. "That was a big mistake you made. You didn't come out guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You've got to be strong. You've got to be aggressive. You've got to push back hard. You've got to deny anything that's said about you. Never admit.'"
What else is happening:
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who successfully pushed Trump to grant a pardon for a drug offender earlier this year, returned to the White House for a meeting with senior aides, including Jared Kushner, on criminal justice reform.
Rudy Giuliani denied a tale in Woodward's book that Trump humiliated him after a TV appearance in 2016 defending the candidate after the "Hollywood Access" tape scandal exploded.
- A federal judge turned down a bid by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to move his next trial from Washington on grounds he couldn't get an impartial jury there.
- Mueller's investigators have subpoenaed Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist, who like Trump promoted birtherism claims against Barack Obama. The special counsel's interest is Corsi's ties to Roger Stone, who is under scrutiny over contacts with WikiLeaks, which published hacked Democratic emails.
- Without offering evidence, Trump accused social media companies including Facebook and Google of interfering in the 2016 and 2018 elections to favor Democrats.
- Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Trump's order to eliminate DACA. The program remains alive because of court decisions, but its ultimate fate, and that of the 700,000 young undocumented immigrants under its protection, could be decided by the Supreme Court, CNN reports.
- Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer now facing prison, sought spiritual comfort at a breakfast meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton, The New York Times reported. “He even asked me to pray with him, and we did at the table,” Sharpton said.