Foreign leaders may try to take advantage of Trump after op-ed: Ex-Clinton administration official

  • "It's very likely that foreign leaders are concluding that he will be too distracted to be an effective negotiator," says Matt Bennett, former White House deputy assistant in the Clinton administration.
  • Leaders could try to take advantage of the United States, he says.
  • "It could be dangerous."

The extraordinary op-ed by a senior Trump administration official could have an impact on President Donald Trump's dealings with foreign leaders, a former White House official under President Bill Clinton told CNBC on Thursday.

The anonymous op-ed, published in The New York Times, described a "resistance" against Trump within his own administration.

Matt Bennett, former White House deputy assistant in the Clinton administration, said while Clinton was able to compartmentalize during his impeachment proceedings, Trump takes things personally.

"It's very likely that foreign leaders are concluding that he will be too distracted to be an effective negotiator," he said on "Closing Bell."

"You could see foreign leaders, particularly in hostile countries but even in allies that Trump is aggravating, really trying to take advantage of the United States. It could be dangerous."

President Donald Trump listens as others speak during a working lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last June. 
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
President Donald Trump listens as others speak during a working lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last June. 

The essay comes at a time when Trump is instituting tariffs on countries around the globe in an effort to make trade deals he says are more balanced. The U.S. is also in the middle of negotiating a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

There has been intense speculation about who authored the piece, as well as several denials from White House officials — including Vice President Mike Pence.

Bennett said leaking information and giving quotes to journalists on background happens all the time.

However, "to have an all-out assault on the president from within either the White House or the senior ranks of his administration is without parallel … in modern American history, maybe with the exception of the last week of the Nixon administration," he said. "This is crazy."

Whether it impacts Trump's domestic policy is hard to say, he said. For example, a trade deal with Canada and Mexico will need congressional approval.

"With a dysfunctional administration that's going to go from very hard to probably impossible," Bennett predicted.

"Every bit of chaos makes it harder for the president to achieve anything."

Trump responded to the Times piece by lashing out at the media and the author.

— CNBC's Mike Calia contributed to this report.