I say, yes, they should investigate and to my way of thinking, it’s not even a close call.
However, in discussions with others, including others on the TNB staff, I seem to be in the minority on that around here. But hear me out…
President Trump is calling for his Department of Justice to investigate it. I realize that the first inclination is to dismiss Trump as a buffoon and most of what he says is worthy of that. Believe me, I understand that, and if anyone thinks I don’t, you must be new around here.
To be clear, I fully believe that Trump’s motive for finding the culprit is very much different than mine. Trump wants to know who it is so that he can personally attack the person in every way possible to destroy his/her credibility and he will “instruct” all of his little sycophantic minions like Rush, Hannity, and Levin to join in on the attacks.
“I don’t mind criticism, I handle it and I fight back,” he said, calling The New York Times’ publication of the piece “disgraceful.” “But here’s criticism where you can’t fight back. ‘Cause you have somebody doing it anonymously.”CNN
On the other hand, as David French explained in his recent article in the National Review, there are much bigger problems with this situation.
Let’s put this as bluntly as possible: If you’re actively defying the president to pursue your own preferred policies, you’re subverting an American presidential election. If you’re withholding from the American people actual hard evidence of presidential unfitness, then you’re placing your own career before your country. If you’re lying or badly exaggerating the facts for the thrill of constant media contact or the approval of your peers, then you’re just despicable.National Review
Forget about Trump and his nonsense. Forget about the New York Times. Forget about “free speech” and the right of the writer to voice his opinions. This isn’t about any of that anymore.
The fact is, now that the writer has done this, we have direct evidence – an actual admission – that a person, or multiple people, are actively working to circumvent the actions of a duly elected President.
That’s a problem.
We simply cannot tolerate random, un-elected people to take it upon themselves to thwart the actions and prerogatives of a President of the United States…ANY President of the United States. As much as most of us believe Trump to be unfit and dangerous to our Republic, this is not the legitimate process to address that. In fact, it is indeed a very dangerous process all in itself.
If the DOJ has credible information, no matter where that information is from, that there is a group of people around the President conspiring to thwart the actions of the president, they MUST take that seriously and investigate it. Again, I don’t even see how that is debatable.
No, I am not saying that the New York Times should be forced to divulge the identity of the writer. They should not. That is a definite freedom of the press issue. No, I’m not saying that the writer does not have a right to write whatever he/she wants to in an op-ed. That is a freedom of speech thing. The writer should not be arrested or otherwise punished for the writing of the op-ed. Although Trump would have every right to fire him for it, assuming he is an appointee.
However, that does not mean that the writer is then protected from any investigation of things he writes about. For example, if I write an op-ed claiming to kidnap, torture, and kill immigrant children found crossing the border unaccompanied, I am not protected from the authorities investigating my claims simply due to my free speech rights. That should be clear to everyone. In the same way, if this person writes about his and others’ admitted activities to thwart the actions and directives of a duly elected President, he/she is not protected from the authorities investigating that.
And they should investigate it. Because we can’t have that happening for reasons that should be completely obvious to any clear-thinking person, no matter how much we hate the President and believe he is unfit, and no matter how much we sympathize with the belief that someone should be keeping him in check.
“But, Steve, the writer is not claiming to be doing anything illegal!”
I’m not so sure about that. It’s sort of on the level of Trump supporters claiming that collusion isn’t illegal. It depends on the details. I don’t know if thwarting or circumventing a duly elected President has any technical illegalities, but I do know that it’s not conducive to our Constitutional system. Yeah, I know, we’ve strayed so far away from that already so why should we bother? Because if we give up on it, there will be nobody left.
The actions that the writer describes in the op-ed are vague enough to avoid saying they are outright disobeying, ignoring, or altering Presidential directives, yet certainly comes close enough to warrant further scrutiny. Honestly, I just don’t know about the illegalities involved in any of that. If the President gives certain direction to an agency to implement of get rid of certain regulations, and they do the opposite or ignore it completely, is that illegal or simply insubordinate? I think it depends. If a person creates a regulation or directs funding completely opposite of what the Executive directs, that’s a big problem (aside from the big problem of the Executive Branch making regulations in the first place, but that’s another topic).
Here is how the anonymous writer describes his/her activities, first stating how they are thwarting the President based on what they deem are misguided impulses:
But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.The New York Times
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.
Being un-elected appointees not accountable to the people, it is not their place to make such decisions. If they don’t agree with the President’s “impulses” it is their duty and obligation to resign, and if the reasons are such that they are concerned for the nation, it is their duty to inform and alert the people.
Next, we learn about how they “insulate their operations from his whims”:
From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.The New York Times
And the there is this:
The result is a two-track presidency.The New York Times
Sounds like a “shadow presidency”? That is not America. I know…but this is Trump! I get it. But we’re either for properly operating our Constitutional system or we’re not. We don’t get to pick and choose when to do so based on our personal prerogatives. That’s not intellectually honest or consistent.
If what the anonymous writer says is true, there are legitimate methods to properly address it. Either muster enough key personnel to invoke the 25th Amendment and then make your case, or short of that, resign and personally come forward and make your concerns known publicly and forcefully.
Anything else thwarts our system of Constitutional self-government.
The writer even addresses (but quickly dismisses) that proper method of dealing with an unfit person unable to handle the office and duties of the Presidency:
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. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.The New York Times
But the writer has this completely backwards. Using the process described in the 25th Amendment is not creating a constitutional crises. Rather, it is actually using the Constitutional method created for such circumstances. Attempting to circumvent the Constitutional method and take matters into your own hands is what is, ironically, causing a Constitutional crises.
No matter how we personally feel about the President, we must recognize that we can’t have a President in office that is surrounded by people he does not trust. That is a dangerous situation and is the reason I stated that Trump must fire Sessions and Rosentein and anyone else he doesn’t trust immediately. I wrote about that here. So this anonymous op-ed has only made matters worse. As hard is it already was to get Trump to listen to reason, he will now second-guess everything anyone around him tells him, except for his children and his gut. How is that better? It also gives him additional fodder to claim he’s being railroaded by the “Deep State” and the “Failing New York Times”.
The investigation should happen. Hopefully the result would be that we bring out the truth of what’s happening into full exposure during that process. I happen to believe that the truth will not go very well for the President. But in any case, we just can’t allow this utter chaos to continue.
So, yes, it’s easy to take a position against Trump and be against the idea of outing this anonymous writer. But we have to set aside what we believe about Trump and think about the big picture.
What would we say if we had a good President, one that we believe was honest, and virtuous, and truly working for the good of the country? How would we feel if an anonymous person said the same things about that President and basically admits that he and others are thwarting him because they just didn’t believe in his Constitutionally conservative policies? Do you honestly believe you’d be just fine with that?
If you claim that, yes, you’d be just fine with that, I’m calling BS.