Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.
If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.
On Wednesday, though, a “senior official in the Trump administration” published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times, writing:
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.
The author of the anonymous op-ed is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. See, we only look complicit! Actually, we’re the real heroes of the story.
But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.
What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation? The author of the Times op-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own.
He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.
And those who do not quit or are not fired in the next few days will have to work even more assiduously to prove themselves loyal, obedient, and on the team. Things will be worse after this article. They will be worse because of this article.
The new Bob Woodward book set the bad precedent. The high official who thought the president so addled that he would not remember the paper he snatched off his desk? Those who thought the president stupid, ignorant, beholden to Russia—and then exited the administration to return to their comfortable, lucrative occupations? Who substituted deep-background gripe sessions with a reporter for offering detailed proof of presidential unfitness, or worse, before the House or Senate? Yes, better than the robotic servility of the public record. But only slightly.
What would be better?
Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections.
Your service in government is valuable. Thank you for it. But it is not so indispensable that it can compensate for the continuing tenure of a president you believe to be amoral, untruthful, irrational, antidemocratic, unpatriotic, and dangerous. Previous generations of Americans have sacrificed fortunes, health, and lives to serve the country. You are asked only to tell the truth aloud and with your name attached.