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Anonymous Trump resistance op-ed in the NYT parallels the darkest days of Richard Nixon's presidency, historians say

Key Points
  • An anonymous op-ed written by a senior Trump administration official claiming to be part of a cabal of insiders thwarting the president's agenda has virtually no precedent in presidential history, experts say.
  • Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, says the only parallel in modern times is the end of the presidency of Richard Nixon, whose top aides worried about what he might do as he faced the imminent prospect of removal from office in the summer of 1974.
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NYT op-ed could become most famous anonymous piece since the Kennan telegram, says expert

An anonymous op-ed written by a senior Trump administration official claiming to be part of a cabal of insiders thwarting the president's agenda has virtually no precedent in presidential history, experts have said.

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian for NBC News, said the only parallel in modern times is the end of the presidency of Richard Nixon, whose top aides worried about what he might do as he faced the imminent prospect of removal from office in the summer of 1974.

"I've never seen anything like this in modern presidential history," Beschloss said during an interview Wednesday night on MSNBC's "MTP Daily."

In the op-ed published in The New York Times, a writer identified only as a "senior official" in President Donald Trump's administration wrote that "many Trump appointees" were working to impede the president's agenda in order to "preserve our democratic institutions."

"The dilemma — which [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," the author wrote.

The essay has driven Trump into a rage. He called the writer "gutless" and demanded they be turned over "at once" to the government.

Beschloss said the essay was so extraordinary, its only precedent was the defiance of Nixon aides, who feared that the embattled, paranoid president would employ the military to protect his position.

At the time, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger advised the military to disregard presidential orders that he did not explicitly approve, Beschloss said.

"Henry Kissinger, the secretary of State, was privately saying Al Haig, the White House chief of staff, was keeping the country together, and he, Kissinger, was keeping the world together," Beschloss said. "But that's not at this level."

Chris Whipple, author of "The Gatekeepers," a history of White House chiefs of staff, called the essay "pretty extraordinary."

"I can't think of anything like this, and the only thing that would be even remotely comparable it seems to me would be during the darkest days of the Nixon administration," Whipple said on CNBC's "Closing Bell. "

Whipple said that in the final days of the Nixon presidency, aides were driven to prevent him from acting on his worst impulses. Nixon, at that point, "was walking the West Wing corridors and talking to the oil portraits, and obviously a desperate man," Whipple said.

WATCH: Anonymous NYT op-ed raises new questions

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Anonymous NYT op-ed raises new questions in Washington