President Donald Trump has been in an angry mood this week. Excerpts from veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” have surfaced—painting his administration as being in a state of chaos and disarray. And to make matters worse for the president, September 5 saw the publication of a New York Times op-ed that was anonymously written by a senior Trump Administration official and expressed his or her extreme frustration with the president. The official had a long list of complaints, from foreign policy to trade policy—and the situation is so bad that according to the official, there has even been talk among Trump’s cabinet members of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
An anti-Trump commentary coming from Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher or a MoveOn.org activist would be one thing; one expects liberals and progressives to take a dim view of Trump’s presidency. And NeverTrump conservatives such as GOP strategist Rick Wilson, journalist S.E. Cupp and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough can usually be counted on for plenty of anti-Trump commentary as well. But coming from a high-ranking member of Trump’s administration, the op-ed is all the more damning.
Trump, not surprisingly, is furious, railing against the New York Times as well as the op-ed writer. And the more Trump had to say, the worse he made himself look.
Here are four of the most ludicrous things Trump had to say about the senior official’s New York Times piece.
1. Trump Accuses Op-Ed Writer of Treason
At 6:15 PM eastern time on September 5, Trump posted the following on Twitter: “TREASON?” It wasn’t hard to figure out what the president was referring to: he views the op-ed as treasonous and has also described the senior official as a “traitor.” But the notion that the op-ed was in any way treasonous is ludicrous. Treason, in the U.S. Constitution, is defined as giving “aid and comfort” to those at war with the United States—not having policy disagreements with a sitting president.
Giving classified military information to members of al-Qaeda could result in being charged with treason, as al-Qaeda has declared itself to be permanently at war with the U.S.; critiquing a sitting president in a New York Times op-ed—even if one is part of his administration—is fully protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Even Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham—although critical of the op-ed writer—asserted, “This is not treason under the Constitution. This is not a treasonous act against the nation. This is a disloyal and cowardly act against the president.”
2. Trump Demands Op-Ed Writer’s Identity
Not only does Trump fail to understand how treason is defined in Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution—he lacks even a rudimentary understanding of journalistic ethics. In one of his tweets, Trump fumed, “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once.” But one of the fundamentals of journalistic ethics is that journalists protect their sources; if the Times were to reveal the op-ed writer’s identity after having agreed to anonymity, it would be seriously unethical. And the fact that Trump would encourage such unethical behavior speaks volumes about his character—or lack thereof.
3. Trump Claims Op-Ed Endangers National Security
If the Trump Administration official and the New York Times had conspired to offer ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) classified information on CIA and FBI agents, it would be a matter of national security. Of course, they did nothing of the kind. And publishing a Trump administration insider’s critique hardly qualifies as endangering national security in any way, shape or form. If anything, the op-ed writer was trying to protect national security by expressing concern about the administration’s state of chaos and turmoil. Publishing the op-ed was an act of patriotism on the part of the New York Times.
4. Trump Questions Whether or Not the Op-Ed Writer Really Exists
On Twitter, Trump contradicted himself by implying that the New York Times’ editors wrote the op-ed themselves and published fake news—only to accuse the person of treason and demand his or her identity. In one of his September 5 tweets, Trump posted, “Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?” But if the source were phony, Trump would not be accusing him or her of committing treason and endangering national security. Fictional, made-up characters commit acts of treason in movies and novels, not in real life.