Trump's feud with media deepens | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:16 AM, September 08, 2018

Trump's feud with media deepens

He calls upon NYT to reveal the name behind critical op-ed

Less than nine weeks before a crucial mid-term congressional election, United States President Donald Trump's feud with critical mainstream media has deepened.

Thursday saw over 20 top Trump officials scramble to deny authorship of an op-ed in the New York Times - by an anonymous "senior administration official" - stating in essence that officials have been working quietly to circumvent and rein in an uninformed and capricious president.

Trump hit back via Twitter and at a campaign rally at the 12,000-seat Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Montana, on Thursday evening, suggesting the author of the op-ed may have committed treason.

"We've reached an all-time low," he told the crowd. "Unelected Deep State operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself."

"For the sake of our national security, the New York Times should publish his name," he insisted.

Because of the inherent ambiguity of anonymity - the term "senior administration official" could apply to hundreds, not all close to the president - and the New York Times' antagonistic relationship with the President, the op-ed has poured fuel on the narratives of both sides of the political divide, either confirming a Deep State conspiracy to destroy the president, or confirming that he is unfit for office.

In the end, the verdict will boil down to what voters believe.

The op-ed appeared to corroborate at least part of the picture emerging from a 448-page book Fear: Trump In The White House, due for release next Tuesday.

Written by veteran investigative journalist and Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, extracts released thus far paint a picture of a White House with a mercurial president at the centre of internal tension and chaos.

The book and the op-ed have triggered more than chatter about the possibility of a decision by the Cabinet under the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office on grounds that he is unfit.

Massachusetts Senator Elisabeth Warren tweeted: "If senior officials believe the president is unfit, they should stop hiding behind anonymous op-eds and leaking info to Bob Woodward, and do what the Constitution demands they do: invoke the 25th Amendment and remove this president from office."

But President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence lambasted the author of the op-ed, and the New York Times.

"The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy," Trump tweeted on Thursday.

Yesterday, he blasted Woodward's damning portrayal of the inner workings of his administration as a "scam" based on made-up quotes.

Pence told reporters: "Anyone who would write an anonymous editorial smearing this president who has provided extraordinary leadership to this country should not be working for this administration. They ought to do the honourable thing and... resign."

The New York Times' decision to publish the op-ed will likely be debated for years.

But is the damning op-ed the harbinger of a coup or constitutional crisis?

Unlikely, experts say.

"This is a continuing political and leadership crisis," James Thurber, a government professor and presidential studies expert at American University, told AFP. "It is not yet a constitutional crisis."

Political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics agreed. "We don't even know who the author of the op-ed is, and that is essential to properly evaluate it."

The essay is unlikely to precipitate Trump's impeachment, but no one sees it as a good sign. While the essay and Woodward's book caused a White House meltdown -- with Trump asking if the unsigned op-ed could be "treason" and demanding the author's unmasking -- the president's closest aides circled the wagons.

More than a dozen top administration officials denied being the essay's author.

"This will have little impact on Trump, but will continue to undermine trust in his presidency here in the US and in the world," said Thurber, who believes the 25th Amendment will not be used on Trump.

But the Republican Party risks losing momentum ahead of the Nov 6 mid-terms, in which the Democrat Party will try and seize back a majority in the House of Representatives - something which historically, and on current polling, it has a good chance of doing.

"We have a seemingly endless stream of stories about a White House that is at war with itself and a White House staff who are at war with the president," Dr Glenn Altschuler, professor of American Studies at Cornell University said.

"Every week that goes by that the Trump administration and the Republicans are unable to sustain or develop momentum for their candidates is a lost week for the Republicans and a significant gain for the Democrats."

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