I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

.. The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is 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.
.. To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
.. 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.
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 root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
.. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives:
  • free minds,
  • free markets and
  • free people.
At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
.. In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture:

  • effective deregulation,
  • historic tax reform, a
  • more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is

  • impetuous,
  • adversarial,
  • petty and
  • ineffective.

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.

.. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

.. On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

.. This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

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. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

.. The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

.. Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

.. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

.. There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

Why Trump is so frantic right now

I can’t be the only one who thinks he sounds less like an elected official than like the leader of some apocalyptic cult. Look at the way he rails against the news media at his revival-style campaign rallies. In Indiana on Thursday night, he seemed obsessed with news stories that had described empty seats and a subdued crowd at a West Virginia rally several days earlier. He claimed those reports were “fake news,” although they were demonstrably true.

.. Trump is taking a page from the playbook of totalitarian dictators: Believe only me. Reality is what I say it is. Anyone who claims otherwise is an Enemy of the People.

.. Trump’s approval rating having fallen to 36 percent, with disapproval at 60 percent.

.. more than half of those polled — an incredible 53 percent — said they “strongly” disapproved of Trump’s performance.

.. The most immediate threat to Trump from the election is not impeachment, though we may eventually reach that point. Rather, it is the prospect of genuine oversight and serious investigation. Scrutiny is Trump’s kryptonite.

.. The other thing Trump fears, of course, is the Robert S. Mueller III investigation writ large. The probe by the special counsel has now metastasized to involve the Southern District of New York, the New York state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney

.. Trump desperately wants an attorney general who will shut Mueller down. The incumbent, Jeff Sessions, cannot do so because he is recused from the matter. Republican senators who once warned Trump not to dare fire Sessions now seem resigned to the fact that Trump will do just that.

It makes sense for Trump to make his move after the election. If Republicans still control Congress, he’ll get away with it. If Democrats take charge, he won’t.

The Cuomo-Nixon Debate and the Definition of Politics

Kennedy was wrong historically, failing to anticipate the magnitude of the issues that would arise with the civil-rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the social movements of the coming decades. What’s worse, however, was that he was also wrong politically. In proclaiming the dawning of an era of technocrats, the era of competence and the search for the right solution, Kennedy was, in effect, declaring the end of politics.

.. As for Cuomo, he continuously invoked Trump: the question, he made clear, is who can best wage battle against the President, who, as Cuomo said, “is the main risk to New York; he is trying to change the rights and values of New Yorkers.” It’s a fair assessment of the situation, and a fair question. But taking on Trump is not a matter of having the best accountants and firefighters, or the best-articulated policy proposals: it is a matter of putting forward a vision that offers the opposite of the Trumpian pull of the imaginary past. That vision—the promise of something yet unknown—is, in fact, the stuff of politics.

 

Donald Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The principled case for impeachment is clear. What’s missing is the courage.

.. To overturn the results of an election for anything less than unambiguous evidence of criminal behavior is a danger to democracy itself.

At least that was my view until this week. Michael Cohen’s guilty plea changes this. The Constitution’s standard for impeachment is “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The standard is now met.

.. That means that, as a candidate, Trump is credibly alleged to have purposefully conspired with Cohen to commit criminal acts. That means the duo did so “for purposes of influencing [an] election for Federal office,” which is the legal definition of a campaign contribution.

.. In Trump’s case, there is little doubt about the purpose of the payment to Stormy Daniels:In Trump’s case, there is little doubt about the purpose of the payment to Stormy Daniels: To prevent disclosure of their alleged liaison, less than a month before the election and barely two weeks after the Access Hollywood tape came to light.

.. The president is now, in effect, an unindicted co-conspirator on charges already prosecuted by the government as a criminal matter against Cohen. Why should a lighter standard apply to Trump, since he’s the one at whose direction Cohen claims to have carried out the payments?

.. That question should especially engage those conservatives who demanded Clinton’s impeachment (as I did). Take South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, one of the House managers overseeing the case against the 42nd president.

.. “Twenty-five years ago,” he said that December, “a Democratic-controlled judiciary committee, with a minority of Republicans, reported articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. Why? Nixon cheated — he cheated the electoral system by concealing efforts of a political break-in, and his people thought the other side deserved to be cheated. They thought his enemies deserved to be mistreated. Ladies and gentlemen, they were wrong.”

..  “Today, Republicans, with a small handful of Democrats, will vote to impeach President Clinton. Why? Because we believe he committed crimes resulting in cheating our legal system. We believe he lied under oath numerous times, that he tampered with evidence, that he conspired to present false testimony to a court of law. We believe he assaulted our legal system in every way. Let it be said that any president who cheats our institutions shall be impeached.”

.. If breaking the law (by lying under oath) to conceal an affair was impeachable, why is breaking the law (by violating campaign-finance laws) to conceal an affair not impeachable?

.. If cheating “our institutions” (by means of an “assault” in “every way” on the legal system) is impeachable, why is cheating those institutions (by means of nonstop presidential mendacity and relentless attacks on the Justice Department and the F.B.I.) not impeachable?

.. The Constitution matters more than a tax cut. What the Constitution demands is the impeachment and removal from office of this lawless president.