President Trump has spent the last 24 hour losing his mind over an anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times that suggested there was a “resistance” within the White House curbing Trump’s “worst inclinations.” Officials from Mike Pence to Mike Pompeo have issued statements denying they wrote the piece, and expressing their loyalty to the president. But sources inside the White House tell the Washington Post that the op-ed, and Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book Fear, are reflective of their daily reality.
From the Post:
Senior officials have long acted to slow-walk or stymie some of the president’s ideas and directives. When he was White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus had a favored strategy, according to his colleagues — tell the president that he would execute an order, or a firing — but not until “next week.” By then, Trump often would have forgotten.
Before some lawmakers, such as Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) or Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), went golfing with Trump, White House legislative aides would prep them on helpful messages they were trying to share or “disasters they were trying to divert,” according to a former senior administration official. A current senior administration official defended the practice as “standard staff work in any White House.”
You know, that standard work in which senior White House aides are use the same tactics on the president as parents placating their obnoxious children who won’t shut up about going to Disney World (“We’ll buy tickets next week!”).
Some of the episodes detailed in Woodward’s book exemplify this approach to pseudo-governance by White House staff. When Trump wanted to sign a letter withdrawing the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea, former economic advisor Gary Cohn allegedly simply took the letter off Trump’s desk before he could sign it.
U.S. diplomats and military officials also reportedly spent months delaying the president’s directive to cut aid from Pakistan, though in the end he forced the decision through, according to the Post:
Trump blindsided his staff on New Year’s Day when he angrily accused Pakistan of “lies & deceit” in a tweet and called for an end to U.S. aid. The message prompted a mad scramble, even as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continued to warn that cutting off aid could be destabilizing, according to former officials and congressional aides.
The State Department announced three days later it was suspending at least $900 million, or nearly all, of the remaining military aid, but managed to preserve hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance and military financing.
Some of his staff’s subversions have averted even more serious global actions. Trump apparently told H.R. McMaster in the summer of 2017 that he wanted to invade Venezuela and remove leader Nicolás Maduro. McMaster tried to convince him it was a bad idea, but Trump later brought it up in a meeting with Latin American leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. “Even when the staff says no, I think he holds out hope that he’ll find someone who thinks it’s a good idea,” a senior White House official told the Post.
Aides also ignored and subverted Trump’s trade ideas. “He would be like, ‘Do this, do that, slap a tariff on this country or that country, let’s blow everything up, let’s go to war,’ ” a former White House official told the Post. “Then we would come back the next week and Trump would say, ‘What happened with X?’ And he would get mad that no one had done it. And it was a never-ending cycle.”
These events, if they really happened, are disturbing on many levels. The fact that our president has the IQ and disposition of a warmongering toddler is upsetting and scary enough. But that his aides are intentionally subverting his decisions undemocratically is in some ways even worse. Yes, it’s good that Trump hasn’t done anything to cause World War III or hasten the extermination of the human race (yet), but who are these people who are “resisting” Trump’s directives? According to the op-ed in the Times, even the internal “resistance” against Trump still believes in most of what he does. The administration itself is literally rife with white supremacist sympathizers. These are the people who are undemocratically running our country. That’s a terrifying precedent to set, and if or when Trump is ousted, these people will only be more effective under a President Pence. God help us.