Capitol Hill stunned, dismayed after New York Times publishes anonymous 'resistance' op-ed from Trump official

  • Democratic and Republican lawmakers respond with alarm, criticism and deflection in the wake of The New York Times explosive op-ed from an unidentified Trump official.
  • The piece claims an internal "resistance" is actively working to thwart some of President Trump's legislative goals and tame his most destructive impulses.
  • The op-ed set off frenzied speculation about the possible identity of the anonymous author, and prompted politicians to respond.
U.S. President Donald Trump waits for the arrival of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Kuwait's emir, not pictured, ahead of a bilateral meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. 
Yuri Gripas | Bloomberg | Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump waits for the arrival of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Kuwait's emir, not pictured, ahead of a bilateral meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. 

Republican and Democratic lawmakers parties responded with alarm, criticism and deflection in the wake of an explosive op-ed in The New York Times from an unidentified Trump official.

The piece claims that an internal "resistance" is actively working to thwart some ofPresident Donald Trump's legislative goals and tame his most destructive impulses.

The op-ed, published Wednesday afternoon, set off frenzied speculation about the identity of the anonymous author, and prompted politicians to respond.

"America is in unprecedented territory if a White House staffer feels they have to write an anonymous op-ed to warn the American people about what's going on in the Trump White House," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told reporters.

"I think the alarming part of the op-ed is that there's someone in the White House who is very afraid that our nation is being damaged on a daily basis."

Markey added that the piece "only reinforces what's in Bob Woodward's book," referring to the forthcoming expose from the Watergate reporter, which had already garnered Trump's ire for the embarrassing quotes it contains.

The author of the op-ed, identified only as a "senior official in the Trump administration" by the Times, wrote that many of his or her colleagues within the Trump administration "are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."

The official goes on to describe "the president's amorality" and his "erratic behavior" in office, warning that Trump's "impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back."

Some Republicans in Congress appeared less than eager to discuss the op-ed when asked by reporters.

"I've read it, I don't know who wrote it," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday. He stressed that there's "nothing more important" for the GOP than confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He faces questions from lawmakers for a third day Thursday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also sought to tamp down the uproar.

"I've never heard that before, this palace intrigue," Graham told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I don't mean to bust the bubble here, but most people in South Carolina are not going to take the op-ed in The New York Times very seriously."

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday slammed the author of the piece as "a person who obviously is living in dishonesty."

"If you're not interested in helping the president, you shouldn't work for the president as far as i'm concerned," he added.

When asked by a reporter, Ryan said Congress had no role "that I know of" to investigate the publication of the op-ed.

At least one Democrat in the Senate expressed his doubts about what good could come from the piece.

"Frankly, if you're concerned about the stability of the president, the stability of the nation, I'm not sure why you prick him in the side, make him even more paranoid, and perhaps having a purge inside the White House of anyone he suspects of being connected with mainstream Republican causes," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told CNN on Thursday.

Other Democrats said the op-ed proves that Trump is unfit to serve as a president.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., called the anonymous piece "a cry for help."

Said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.: "The fact that this would be a credible story about the interior working of the White House, of the president of the United States, tells the whole story."

He added: "Those who've been around in moments when he's lost it understand that you don't want to be in the room and hear what he has to say, and God forbid be in the room when he's about to make a terrible decision that will hurt this country."

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., an occasional critic of the president, said the purported revelations have been hiding in plain sight since Trump took office.

"This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from Day One," Corker told CBS. "I understand this is the case and that's why I think all of us encourage the good people around the president to stay. I thank [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis whenever I see him."

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse echoed that view while speaking with conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt: "It's just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week," Sasse said. "So it's really troubling, and yet in a way, not surprising."

Trump lashes out

Before most members of Congress had a chance to weigh in, Trump took his first available opportunity to excoriate the op-ed as "gutless" and a "disgrace."

"We have somebody in what I call the 'failing New York Times' that's talking about he's part of the resistance within the Trump administration," Trump told reporters during a meeting with sheriffs.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders followed suit, calling on the newspaper to apologize for publishing the "pathetic, reckless, and selfish" op-ed.

The author, she added, "is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign."

Some of the language in the op-ed, including a laudatory reference to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the use of the word "lodestar," which has appeared multiple times in Vice President Mike Pence's speeches, have been viewed as potential clues by many in the media.

Pence's office Thursday morning "definitively" denied that Trump's own vice president could have written the op-ed, NBC News reported.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was traveling in India for diplomatic talks, also denied responsibility for the piece. "It's not mine," Pompeo told reporters.

But Trump wasn't finished venting his rage. In an all-caps tweet, Trump appeared to ask whether the op-ed's author or its publication constituted treason.

Shortly after, Trump questioned whether the unidentified official even existed — a common refrain from Trump, who has regularly claimed that anonymous sources in negative news reports about him are "phony."

"If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" Trump added in a tweet.