“The dilemma — which he (Trump) 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. I would know. I am one of them.”
The op-ed, published in the New York Times by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration, begins like an announcement of a soft coup only to grow into a military seizure a few sentences later: “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.”
Isn’t this the same language military juntas use when attempting to overthrow a civil government? As a matter of fact, the use of military jargon in the op-ed may not prove much, but it does emphasize the fact that there are plenty of retired generals sitting in Trump’s government.
However, revealing the existence of a resistance movement–a powerful opposition within the current government–is not an everyday event. And because the editorial was published by the most influential paper in the country, news about a resistance countering the impulses of the current president gains momentum and credibility.
From the day he took office, we knew that there was skepticism, fear, and attempts to contain the erratic and unpredictable president from himself. Coming out publicly, however, to ensure public safety with a detailed description of deceit and subterfuge by an unnamed group beside the commander in chief is without precedent. There were individuals countering President Nixon during his leadership, leading to his downfall, but the public was largely informed for the first time only after he resigned. This time, it’s happening in front of our eyes and almost daily. The previous bad-mouthed leaks of incredible stories about this president are nothing compared to the latest explosion caused by the publication of the piece. The op-ed is an escalation that has forced us to not only consider, but to imagine, the endgame, and Trump being rescued by chopper from the White House. Recall the 1975 Saigon rescue operation from the roof of the U.S. Embassy.
Despite a growing desire to witness the president’s fumbling escape from the White House, it is not likely to happen. A more plausible scenario is quite the opposite, as noted by many commentators after the op-ed’s publication. They expressed concern about what this erratic and impulsive president may be capable of, now that he has been pushed into a corner. The defensive attacks begin.
I almost never watch television. I can no longer participate in the repetitive hysteria of even the most minute details of this president’s wrongdoings. I do keep one eye on the news, though, waiting for what interests me: I want to hear that Trump is gone.
Not there yet, but the process of removing this president, who represents a real and present danger to this country and the world, has been progressing rather rapidly in the last few days. First, there was the evident instrumentalization of Senator John McCain’s funeral, organized by the deceased himself, and which celebrated a national hero as the president, uninvited, played golf. Then, just days later, the anticipation of veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, brought more devastating details from within the White House to light, illuminating a dysfunctional administration and its grossly incapable, and possibly mentally deficient, president. After this devastating series of events for the president and the country, the NYT op-ed confirmed the chaos and inconsistency of the leadership, implicitly beginning the process of invoking the 25th amendment, which allows the removal of a sitting president due to an incapacity to run the country.
In the morning after the bombshell, I turned on the TV to watch Morning Joe. I wanted to see if indeed the fatal moment had arrived. I was lucky; sitting in the studio with the hosts, Joe Scarborough, and Mika Brzezinski, was John Brennan, former director of the CIA; James Stavridis retired US Navy Admiral and Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, and Richard Haass, American diplomat and president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Brennan, from whom President Trump revoked security clearance after he was challenged publicly, started the discussion by saying: “There are a lot of people in the federal administration who are frustrated, and are now taking extreme measures to try to reassure the American people that there are people within administration who are trying to counter what Trump is doing.” I took another sip of coffee, as I could almost not believe what I just heard. Was Brennan talking about the same group of resistance? Was it a call to the insurgency? Does Brennan know the people who are taking extreme measures to stop this President? What a scandal. In short, it seems, he well knows who wrote the op-ed. “It is not a leak,” Brennan said, “it’s an expression of deep concern and worry, reflecting what people have been saying for the last year: that Donald Trump is not capable of fulfilling his responsibilities.”
I saw Brennan wink to his left, from where Admiral Stavridis began talking. They were evidently synchronized, and the admiral continued in the same vein, describing the situation as very dangerous. “It’s a chain of command, and that worries all of us,” said the Admiral referring to the military commanders, of whom the president is chief. “Regardless who sits on the top of the chain of command, you want a functioning executive branch; you must have a functioning military.” On the question of what he would do if someone ordered him to assassinate a foreign leader, do something illegal or otherwise dangerous on behalf of the country, the admiral answered: “Those kinds of things scream for not only I would not do it, and that I would confront it, but you have an obligation, as a senior leader, to step up and make that public. At the end of the day, any leader has the obligation to illuminate the public when the things are getting off the rail.”
Similar to the op-ed Stavridis quoted senior leaders, not only justifying but also defending the obligation to disobey when it comes to irrational orders that may deliberately cause collateral damage or major conflict.
Richard Haass added more fuel to the dangerous fire America finds itself in. Haass, an expert in international relations, indicated that things are more complicated than the admiral was describing. What would happen if the president ordered senior officials to attack North Korea, justifying the attack by claiming Kim was not respecting the terms of the Singapore summit? “It would be a very bad idea, but it is not an illegal one since it’s within the spectrum of foreign policy possibilities,” Haass said.
Could an attack like this be used as a distraction from domestic problems? And did the op-ed push this president to an edge where he might use extreme methods to regain authority as parts of his administration publicly challenge him with insubordination? Brennan, who was the best-informed in the studio, predicted the following development: “Things will get worse before they get better.” There is little doubt that by “better” Brennan was indicating Trump’s removal; he no longer calls the president by his official title or even name. He added, “This individual will be facing increased pressure from within and the walls that are collapsing around his mercurial and reckless nature might lead him to do something rash to distract the attention from his problem, his domestic problems. We have seen this behavior before in terms of the authoritarian leaders who will try to suppress and repress any kind of opposition and try to remove any threads that he’ll see to rise on the political scene. I would not rule out that there would be some kind of effort that will engage in some action that will distract the attention from his domestic political problem!”
All eyes are on the president now. The op-ed has changed things by publicly challenging a self-interested Trump, and the nation fears what the roaring president might do next. How will he try to regain control and heal his wounded ego? Will Trump resist the temptation to reassert his presidential authority against people from within who are working against him, or will he attack a foreign country to distract the nation from domestic problems? Or, he might wait for the results of the November mid-terms, as the other parties in this dangerous game seem to be doing. The Democrats are hoping to regain the majority in the House, which would enable them to start the process of executive impeachment. The Republicans, on the other hand, are waiting to ditch their President but are not willing to do so right away, as they are not yet sure the outcome of the elections. Is the military ready, and for what?
It seems to me that everyone is waiting that the rescue operation from this president–not by–should be lead by the Congress. That is that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s unknown involvement in everything from election corruption, Russian collusion, and obstruction of justice to illegal financial operations will bring to the conclusion that will force Congress to act. In summary, it seems almost impossible that Trump will spend another winter in the White House.
Allow me to add my modest Slovenian wish in the style of non-fan fiction: I considered the possibility that Melania Trump might meet an intellectual – as Silvio Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica Ilaria, did – and then ditch Trump, like Veronica did her rich, reckless and misogynistic husband. Following the op-ed’s publication in the NYT, this nation has a right to hear the voice of the First Lady, more than from a press release condemning the insider. It is time Melania Trump takes sides, preferably on the right side of history. We know that she must have signed one or several non-disclosure agreements, and is tight-lipped as a result. But, as Brennan and Stardivis said, there are times when senior national leaders must emerge and denounce harm to the country’s prestige and security. If Melania, as she has proved many times, is capable of protecting herself, she now has a duty to protect this country. This is no longer about the golden cage you chose to live in, my fellow compatriot.